05 Nov Crow pose when your body is in pain. A journey of self-discovery.
I run a yoga program for people suffering from chronic pain. Today I was particularly inspired by the progress the current group of women have made in their understanding of their bodies and themselves. 16 weeks into their yoga experience they attempted – and many performed – crow pose, a challenging arm balance.
To give you an idea of just how impressive this is, in lesson one of Yoga for Pain we often only move hands and feet because anything more aggravates the participants’ pain.
What makes this kind of progress possible?
Self-acceptance and self-understanding
This group of women have contributed to an environment in which they feel safe working with their bodies as they are, comfortable that they can work within their limits, with trust that it is OK.
When we are in pain we can spend a lot of time seeking solutions outside from outside – from doctors, physiotherapists or even friends – and can lose touch with our own capacity to know what is best. It can take some nurturing and gentle care to reconnect with self-trust and self-knowing.
As our practice leads to greater self-understanding and self-acceptance, we learn that doing crow pose today is the same as taking extra long savasana rest tomorrow, because that is what our body needs in that moment. They are two sides of the same coin to understanding ourselves, on the yoga mat and off.
Nurturing the self enables nurturing others
By recognising how to work within their limits, each person in the class has then made new additions to the group feel safe enough to embark on the same journey of self-discovery.
I’d like to thank those of you who have been coming to class for a while now for leading by example. You make this possible for everyone else.
Two sides to neediness
People with chronic health conditions, particularly where they are syndromes without a clear pathology, can be viewed as difficult, complaining or needy. They avoid doing things for themselves.
We also see appears as opposite behaviour, where pain sufferers are so scared to be perceived as needy that they push themselves in the opposite direction just to prove (often to themselves) that they aren’t weak.
In my experience working with this group, I have seen that neediness is simply a response to a perception that there is no support available. We feel that something is required from outside to fix us, to take away our pain, to remedy our incapacity. It can manifest as trying to prove our self-worth to others and ourselves, either by accepting more support than we need or by trying to do it all ourselves.
Support from within
In How to Support a Loved One psychologist Dr Susan Holtzman explains that the belief that you have support is instrumental in the wellness of people with disabilities and pain.
When yogis at Yoga for Pain find the understanding and acceptance of self that allows postures like crow pose to be attempted, without struggle, without fear for a setback in the following days, they discover that support for their own healing and growth is always available within.