Body is a hard thing to understand. We can name and label things. We do. But the questions of body - why? Why am I healthy, when my brother is ill? Why does this food do this? What is aging? what am I capable of? Why does illness hit, or miss? - stay stuck in mystery. Kicked into the bucket of sometimes bad things happen to good people and don't take what you've got for granted. Except that we do.
A few days ago a woman showed me two pictures. The first was a bag of pills - big as a person's chest, pounds heavy - that she no longer takes. This doesn't include the supplements and the over the counter stuff, she said. The second picture was of a year old German Shepard, whom she has adopted and goes running with. She couldn't walk very well when she started yoga, due to various and medically unexplained neuropathies. Was one of those who said 'I probably won't be able to do most of this, but I'll do what I can". She was shocked when things she took as fact started changing.
Yoga does this. Makes us take nothing, nothing for granted.
We've all heard similar stories. Yet I don't want yoga to come across as a miracle cure, nor myself as a healer.
Yoga doesn't miraculously cure. It only teaches us to approach our own experience as open to change. It doesn't change disease, all the time. Or even some of the time. Or at all predictably. It does, however, change our experience of being alive. It changes us.
I have fibromyalgia. It is flaring. I keep forgetting what I'm doing. I stop talking midsentence because I've forgotten words, and I trip because my back or knee or ankle gives. I think my insides are lined with cut glass. Breathing hurts. This makes me not breathe very much. Not breathing much has now thrown my neck out and a headache in and a shake into my arms. For four days now I haven't been able to sleep, think, or stand without hurting. My clothes hurt. The bed hurts. If you've noticed that I'm tongue tied and stupid, and forget things like yoga pants so I teach in jeans, or that I kinda hobble around like I'm seventy nine and arthritic, my apologies. I promise it'll pass.
But here's the thing: I can still do yoga.
Mincingly, true. Very, very slowly and cautiously, true. But I can. Yesterday, it amounted to one very ginger child's pose and half an hour crawling my way around blankets and bolsters trying to get under certain muscles and float the joints so they don't touch anything. I spent the rest of the day laying in various positions on the bathroom and kitchen floor, rubbing ointments and oils and herbs in, popping ibuprofen, alternating hot and cold. I was miserable and teary. But I had child's pose, and one archingly tender backbend.
It seems, over the years, that yoga has given me enough knowledge and sensitivity to move without making the pain worse. Which is something.
I know of nothing else that asks me to move so slowly, so attentively. Tender, but in the sweet sense of the word.
#fibro flaring. 3 days I can't sleep, can't eat, can't really walk or talk or sit without hurting. But I can yoga. I know how to move so subtle I move around the pain, move without causing pain. Which is something. Bodies are mysterious. Who suffers, how. Why medicine can't answer the questions. I know of nothing, nothing other than yoga that allows us to move so subtly, so attentive, so careful and true into the unanswerable questions. breathe on them without causing more pain. What is this, who am I, how do I live kinda questions that doctors and books and others simply cannot ever ever answer. #yogateacher
I think of all the ailments people have cited to me. Progressive and chronic diseases. Grief. Anxieties. I don't have answers. I don't know why one person falls ill, another is hit by a car, a third seems to be 'blessed' but is miserable. I know others with fibromyalgia who can no longer work, who are so debilitated by pain and pain medications that they have lost, significantly, the joy of being alive.
I don't know why I am mostly well.
Bodies are mysterious. But then again, so is everything.
Every question burns down to an unknowing: We don't know right from wrong, who deserves what, why we have this body or that problem, what happens when we die or how we ought to be living. There is no guidebook and there are no rules. You can find rules, sure; but you can also find ten other rules offering contradictory advice. Accepting rules and handed down wisdom gives some comfort, surely; a good enough map. But at some point, medicine is not going to be able to answer the more human questions of our mortality. And self help is going to fall stupidly short when it becomes a moral imperative for us to act justly, let go of our own prejudices, or help us care for our elderly.
Everything is mysterious. We are mysterious.
Does god exist? What do I believe and what does that mean? Am I in love? How do I live with cancer? with grief? None of these questions can be answered.
Right answers don't, ultimately, exist. I don't have anything ameliorative to say about this. Except that I know this yoga, and this yoga asks us to move slowly, attentively, with acceptance and humility and willingness, toward what is most achingly tender. To live in the delicate and vulnerable space of questions and uncertainty. To take up the responsibility the questions ask of us.
Each time we do, a connection is made. Something is sounded. I mean, like when you sound out the depth of ocean. Not 'understood'. Not 'proven'. But infinitely more resonate and felt than what was there, before.
This doesn't cure. It isn't a miracle. It's simply a way of living that takes nothing for granted. A tender way of attending. A way of moving without causing pain.
Which is something.