The ending of one year, and beginning of a new one is always an auspicious time to review and contemplate the past. For the start of the new year, this can help to cultivate your true path to fulfillment of your life purpose. This can be especially true if you are healing from an injury or overcoming chronic pain. Sometimes when we are caught up in our cycles of pain, frustration, limitations, and ups and downs, it is difficult to notice the improvements and progress and healing from one month to the next. I have been down this path myself. And, when we are hurting, frustrated and stagnant our true path can become overgrown and difficult to follow.
This introspection can be achieved by just sitting or lying quietly in meditation reviewing the year, or if you kept a journal reading over your past entries, or even looking at your calendar and notice how many appointments and fun activities you had scheduled in the beginning of the year versus now. You might pick up on subtle changes to your moods, activities, and schedule.
In the Physical Therapy world noticing very objective improvements, such as standing or sitting for longer periods, beginning to increase walking and hiking, relaxing more with friends and family, participating in hobbies, all with less pain, are all signs of improvement.
However, if you don’t review and look for these signs and changes it is easy to get caught up in the things you still can’t do now. For example, “I can’t run old route”, “I still can’t return to my usual Yoga class”, “I can’t walk the dog on our normal route”, “I can’t sit on my favorite couch”. This thought process can create more tension and stress, even increasing and exacerbating your pain.
When looking closely at those phrases you will notice one common theme, an old way of doing something. As you heal and overcome injury and pain, you also evolve as an individual and develop new ways of thinking and new neural pathways. Sometimes this is noticeable to yourself and loved ones, sometimes not at all.
So, it is unrealistic of yourself to expect to return 100% of how you were before the injury, because hopefully you are no longer that same person. And, it might have even been those old patterns, activities, and ways of thinking that lead to the injury or pain in the first place. Instead let go of the old templates and thoughts of what you should be doing based on the past or certain expectations, and create new templates for the present.
In the Yoga world the unraveling happens with a consistent Asana (yoga practice), Pranayama (breathing techniques), and Meditation practice working with the 5 Layers of Koshas (beings within), moving beyond a physical injury and Anatomy. In Mr. Iyengar’s book, Light on Life the chapters are broken down by Koshas. First is the stability through the Physical Body (Asana), then working with Vitality in the Energy Body (Prana), next is Clarity in the Mental Body (Manas), then Wisdom through the Intellectual Body (Vijnana) and last Bliss in the Divine Body (Ananda). Working with these Koshas sheds light to old ways of thinking, and helps to create new paths bringing us closer to our true Dharma (life purpose).
When I was healing from my back injury I had to completely change my Yoga practice from one of mostly Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow to primarily Therapeutic for a number of months. I also had to stop running, and reduced my hiking for a period of time.
When my body healed, instead of returning back to my old Flow classes and dropping into my old patterns and habits I started practicing more Iyengar Yoga. I also decided for my body running multiple times a week was not the best activity, so I let go of the thought that I had to run. Instead I started hiking and walking more, always ending with a short Therapeutic Yoga practice. To help keep my mind and emotions in the game I started a short daily Meditation and Pranyama practice. This is what worked for me, and I haven’t felt any nerve or intense low back symptoms in over a year. Once in a while I will feel an occasional symptom pop up on the radar, so my evolving and unraveling work continues into 2015. However, this is my path and my dharma and I accept it all just as it arrives. Yours of course will be different, and that is for you to discover.
What old thoughts, activities and patterns can you let go of? Ready to set on a new path for 2015?
For more insight on overcoming Chronic Pain and how the Brain is involved please check out my good friend Jo’s blog: My Cuppa Jo.