I’ve been pushing myself like a wheelbarrow full of bricks for about a month. I’ve been on a personal mission to transform my spinal structure. I know it sounds crazy, but I believe it is possible and have been working out intensely with Pilates and yoga, specifically geared toward lengthening and strengthening the spine almost every day. I have a friend who works in physical therapy and she once said to me, “Our bodies are always fighting gravity,” and I, for one, am not going to give up that fight easily. I believe our bodies are malleable and responsive if we are consistent in our actions. The goal I’m after is to create more space between the vertebrae in my spine and build core (abdominal) strength to support that. The good news is I am beginning to experience some real results and that is exciting.
But beginning Monday of this week, I began to experience something else! A real kickback from my body! It was as if, after all that pulling and pushing, my body said, “Now hang on just a second! Slow down-you’re moving way too fast!” The pain started in my left shoulder and neck, moved diagonally through the middle of my spine, and ended up in my right hip. I went to Monday’s yoga session determined to just “work it out,” and even though the stretches felt good to me in the moment, I probably overdid it. When I woke up Tuesday morning, I could barely get out of bed, cut crosswise in half like I was. I felt nauseous. I had to take several breaks during my workday and lay across a foam roller positioned perpendicular across my spine, just to get through the day.
It was bad. I skipped my Pilates. I thought about cancelling my dance lesson that evening (which I never do). I thought about it off and on throughout the day, but I couldn’t make the call to cancel. Part of me couldn’t imagine dancing (I was so tight and twisted), but the other part of me said, “You have to go-you always go.” So I went and when I got to the studio, I explained my situation to my coach. Together, we decided to take it easy, look at some new waltz figures, and talk about technique more. That one hour turned my day around. For a few minutes, I forgot about the pain. I laughed for the first time all day and knew why I had come, even if I didn’t feel like dancing. My dance coach is one of my best friends, and even without dancing, we can connect because we share a similar sense of humor and appreciate each other’s company. He was okay with taking a different route and not pushing forward. He was more sympathetic with me than I was being.
It was in that moment that I realized I needed to listen to what my body was asking for, maybe some time, some space to catch up with the demands I had been placing on it. Not give up, just hold up a bit. Transformation whether it is spiritual or physical happens in fits and starts. Even though we have a lot of agency in the decisions, we often don’t have control over the timing or the direction of change. We have to allow.
Being aware of our own transformations certainly allows us to take positive steps toward better health, relationships and life conditions. We can increase the speed of our own evolution on purpose with committed actions. What a great gift, but that awareness also requires us to listen, to be attentive when we are being pulled to slow down, to take time to incorporate change, to allow it to settle into our being, so it can become more than just a passing fancy. I like to think of it like taking time to “sync up” or “defragment” what was there before and what is being added anew. Having care and love for ourselves includes knowing when to slow down – when to push and when to pull back and take it easy for a while.
Have you ever been set back unexpectedly and wondered what it means?