"But it hurts even when I do the beginning stretches." I'm talking to Susan, my extraordinary acupuncturist, about my still cranky hip.
So I stand, raise my hands above my head, clasp them with pointer fingers extended upward, arms glued to my ears. I bend my body to the left - not nearly as far as I think I should be able to - and say, "Here. It hurts here."
She directs me to come up from the bend until the pain stops. I'm barely bending at all, but don't have a chance to whine about it before Susan says, not for the first time, "I want you to pull your edge closer in."
I look at her with a raised eyebrow, a rueful smile, and an "aha" light bulb above my head. "You mean no pain at all?"
Susan's been telling me for weeks to pull my edge in. The first time she said it, the words struck me as soul-changing profound. I saw myself standing alone in a huge windswept field with a cliff's edge far far in the distance. That edge represented a part of myself I kept at the farthest possibility of perception so I wouldn't have to feel it or know it.
The thought of bringing the edge closer, something that would never have occurred to me on my own, felt comforting and healed and easier than keeping it so far away. I loved the idea of it.
In yoga the teachers say frequently, "Go to your edge and then just a bit beyond." And so I would. I'd go to where I felt pain, push through, keep going, and pray the pose would end soon.
And after over two months of practice, lots of things are getting slightly looser and some things are getting stronger, but my hip pain has not gone away. Even trying to pull my edge closer in, if the pain wasn't too bad, I'd breathe through it and keep going.
"No pain at all?"
And finally I get it. In a life full of emotional pain, I learned to push it far away so it didn't consume me. In a life where I couldn't look powerful and listen to my body at the same time, I learned to ignore physical pain until. . . . Well until last spring when my hip got so cranky and noisy I couldn't walk or sleep or sit without the pain settling over my brain like a black villain's cape.
Pulling my edge closer means listening to my body before it has to scream, or even do more than whisper. The pain isn't a punishment for being weak. It's a wise warning that a limit has been reached, and there will be a price to pay by going beyond. A price I no longer have the currency for.
On Friday, I held my edge close, like a loved child. Went to the pain and backed away from it. Sat in Child's Pose instead of doing Triangle, hearing Susan say, "If you have to sit in Child's Pose the whole time, you're getting benefit." And almost believing her.
Refused the bully voice in my head saying, "Really, that's all you can do after all this work? They're going to think you're slacking. Your lazy energy is going to slow the whole class down."
No instant cure. The pain persists. I remind myself to be patient. And so for now my edge and I will spend some time getting to know one another, long lost friends reunited at last.
Picture by alasis from Flicker