Lying back in a supported bound angle pose, I opened my eyes to see the dim white of the ceiling and the still blades of the ceiling fan. It was this moment during my restorative yoga practice that I realized that I have forgotten how to have grace with my body.
When I began to have a yoga practice, it was a mess. I could have been the bumbling character in a rom com: messy hair, unsure postures, university tee, and dark glasses to boot. As I kept up the practice, though, my twists became more natural, the flow of movements became fluid, and although my tree pose still wobbled, it was clear that my spirit or the grace that I felt for my body didn’t. Yoga taught me to love my body; it taught me to be grateful for what it could do and that it was okay to ask it to do more.
It’s been a tough year or so for my body, and as my body has walked through this season of pain, I have forgotten how to have grace with my body.
There are things that my body remembers that my mind has suppressed or ignored; this is, of course, how the mind-body survives trauma. From the surprisingly intense pain of a potassium infusion to the cooling sensation of the epidural tapped near my spine that flowed every four hours to keep my nerves blocked as my body healed from a ten hour surgery to remove twenty pounds of STUMP tumors– ever so slowly, my body is remembering things.
Having three surgeries, none planed and all emergent or urgent in a year’s time did a number on my spirit. But I think I’m just now realizing the toll it’s taken on my body, too. Over that time my body carried tumors that grew at an inexplicable rate, my colon became strangulated from a complication of the big surgery, and an unfortunate leg break kept me from walking for about two months.
The body is amazing and the fact that my body has healed, is healing, and kept going through some really traumatic stuff is amazing; my body has survived – my body wants to survive. But survival takes a lot of energy, both physical and emotional, and in that time having grace or appreciation or even love for my body went by the wayside; having spent the past year and a half in survival mode, there was little space for grace.
When I texted a friend to let her know about the leg break and third surgery, her immediate response was, “If that won’t make you love your body, I don’t know what will.” This shook me because it was the first time that I was able to name the fact that I didn’t love my body, and her response was one that was filled with a grace and respect for the way the body navigates trauma. I, instead, found myself surprised at how I felt betrayed by my body, and felt it was to blame for all of the traumatic things that have happened.
But my body isn’t to blame, it has, quite literally, carried me through; my body, despite my lack of appreciation or love, has taken on the task of the long road of recovery and healing. And I’m learning to be grateful for it, and I’m relearning how to have grace with it. When my limp comes on when I’ve pushed my leg too far, I will be grateful. When I struggle to get into a yoga pose that two years ago would have been effortless, I will be grateful. When my scar(s) hurt because of the change in barometric pressure, I will be grateful. I will be grateful because this body has survived and has carried me through; I will be grateful and will try to remember that the pain of today is not necessarily the pain of tomorrow and it’s okay to ask your body to do more as long as you love it.