I have lived with intermittent chronic pain for over 20 years – shoulder and neck pain, low back, hip and SI joint pain. Not always at the same time, but when it comes back it’s always to the same places.
What started out as nagging aches and discomfort progressed at times to pain that immobilized me and kept me up at night. The pain would last between a few days to weeks or even months at a time.
As a yoga teacher, former dancer, outdoor guide and someone who has depended on the ability to be physically active in virtually every job I’ve ever had, this was hard to swallow. Not to mention the desire to be able to keep up with my partner and kids and continue doing the things I love.
Yoga helped, but it didn’t eliminate the pain and there were many things I simply stopped doing in my practice because they made it worse. Avoiding the things that bothered me was a temporary solution but ultimately it didn’t fix anything, and if I came back to them things flared up again.
It wasn’t until I started learning more about pain science and looking at all the factors that contribute to pain that things really started to change.
I stopped blaming my pain on sleeping badly or lifting something the wrong way.
I stopped assuming that I just needed to wait for it to eventually go away, or that it was something I simply had to live with.
I recognized that there were things I could actually do about it.
I learned a lot about pain – why we have it, how it works in the body, the brain and the nervous system on a physiological and neurological level and learned what we can do to change it.
I began to see pain as a symptom of a bigger picture – looking at it from a biopsychosocial model (the whole person) and all the contributing factors that affected it.
I learned a lot more about the body, about anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics and movement science.
I got stronger. I began to recognize that repetitive practices without enough variety of movements and loads were contributing to imbalances and pain so I added more strength and mobility work to my activities. My yoga practice became more of a movement practice, encompassing many different modalities and approaches.
I learned how to listen when my body was sending me messages that I used to ignore or push through.
I still get pain from time to time, but not to the same degree and now I am able to manage it when I do. I can usually prevent things from flaring up completely and, rather than lasting for weeks, it disappears in days or even hours. Most importantly, I can recognize when it begins before it gets bad enough to slow me down too much.
I have a better understanding of how my body works, what it needs and a better awareness of the indications that things are off.
I have the tools to manage discomforts when they arise so that I don’t need to simply wait for it to pass and wonder how long it will take.
I have the knowledge and confidence that things can change and I’d love to share it with you.