A lifetime ago or so it feels, I was a high-performance gymnast training with coaches that did not care much for their athletes physical or mental state. It appeared as if they believed that pain was just a weakness or rather a roadblock along the road to success. Instead I would attempt to hop right over it, ignoring the pain, and pay it no attention.
At the young age of eleven I began the process of ignoring my body, disregarding the pain receptors that my brain was signaling. Developing this “push through” mentality which got me pretty far in the sport but definitely hurt my body along the way.
To exemplify my point at Elite Canada (a National competition), I was battling a nasty sinus infection. Being sick affected my energy so my “umphfff” running down the vault strip wasn't quite its usual “luster.” I ended up hurting my knee on my vault warm up. I then told my coach, he told me to tape it up and continue with the competition. So I followed his instruction and placed third in the country which was pretty cool at the time… It turns out that I tore my ACL and was “benched” for the rest of the season.
When I transitioned into diving I brought along this same “suck it up buttercup and push through” mentality. You know, the normal psyche for a highly competitive athlete? We are special category of masochist aren't we? It didn’t end well for me which I have explained before. I now have a chronic lower back injury as a result of ignoring my body.
I brought this same mentality into my working career thinking to myself “go big or go home.” In my last job, I developed a migraine disorder from overloading myself. The amount of time on planes, inconsistent sleep schedules, infrequent meals and exercise took its toll on me. I ignored my body yet again. Instead of addressing the whole body and looking at what was causing the migraines, I started treating the symptoms. I got on more planes, went to more cities and “pushed through” again.
Until I hit a wall so hard that burnout was inevitable. Nearing the end of this job (before leaving for my yoga teacher training), I vowed to myself that this year I would listen to my body. I would start being truthful with myself and listen to tells within myself. No longer ignoring or disregarding myself because that in a way is unkind treatment towards myself. It has taken me 25 years to fully understand that you only get one body to experience the world with. Why would I want to be mean to it?
Satya is one of the five yamas from Patanjali’s; Yoga Sutra’s. This approach to truthfulness is a principle that allows us through our thoughts, speech and actions to eliminate negative components of our life. So the question I pondered to my self was "is there truth in my own practice?" This encompasses who I am both on and off my mat. I found that I wasn't being as honest and genuine with my body.
As a result, I have found it challenging to understand my body in this "new" honest way. As I try to navigate what this body and what my mind are trying to tell me I have learned quite a bit about myself. This has translated to my physical practice. If I am sore, or something feels tweaked, I now adjust my practice to love on those specific areas. Whereas previously, I would have pushed myself harder to try and make my body stronger. Same with mental turmoil, rather than shoving it under the rug, I now address my concerns, release and try and let it go.
I found I am even more emotional now, I feel everything so deeply which is both a blessing and a curse. I literally cried four times watching the live action version of the Lion King the other day...
Since this vow to myself I have found that my migraines are few and far between now (way more manageable), I feel strong, I feel more in control and most importantly I feel happy. It's amazing what being kind to yourself can do. Adjusting my lens to focus on listening to my truth as I continuously learn things about my self. I am a work in progress, we all are, but my body and my mind are solely mine in this journey so its time I recognize, understand and know my inner person.
So again, I pose the question: is there truth to your practice as you navigate through this world?