Monday, November 14, 2011

My Story Part I: 10 Years of Pain

Some of you may know that I had multiple car accidents as a teenager, including a roll-over. I totaled 3 cars in 3 years and had a number of other fender bender type accidents as well. I don't know why. I don't feel like I was overly reckless (although I may have been), but certainly I was an inexperienced and unlucky driver.

After my 3rd car total (the roll-over), the insurance company put its foot down and said, "We will no longer insure you." This turned out to be ok. I grew up in the country but had just started college and wanted to live in town anyway. So, a friend of my mom's helped us find a rental room in another friend's house which was close to school and I moved right away.

Now in those days, I had never heard of yoga, chiropractic, acupuncture or really any kind of preventative medicine. So after each of my accidents (whiplash and all) I did nothing. I saw no doctor and did not receive any kind of treatment.

By the time I was 20 I was in chronic pain. I cracked my back and neck constantly which only brought momentary relief. I got massages but the muscle knots would return within a day. I didn't know what to do. I just figured that I would be in pain for the rest of my life. In addition to back and neck pain, my feet, knees and hips ached constantly. Often I had to take ibuprofen just to fall asleep at night.

In 1999 I found Yoga. By this time I had been in pain for 10 years. I was amazingly weak to start. I couldn't do down dog or plank. I could hardly hold my arms out for Warrior II for more than a few breaths. But I continued. I practiced yoga every morning with Yoga Zone.

This 1/2 hour show was a life saver for me. The stretches and the strengthening were amazing. But the real lifesaver was the subtle stuff: breath work, mindfulness practice, building awareness, learning the philosophy that nothing is permanent, learning to notice what I am clinging to.

Yoga did not "cure" my aches and pains, but it was a first step of taking control of my pain, my body, my mind, my thoughts, and my breath. But it also caused a few problems which I'll share in my next post.