While driving to my parents’ house in late March of 2017, I suddenly couldn’t feel my foot. I panicked and pulled off to the side of the road. In about 30 seconds, my foot regained feeling, and I safely finished the two-hour drive to my parents. Throughout the summer, these short bouts of “pins and needles” were increasing in frequency; in between such episodes, my hips, back, neck, and shoulders were constantly aching from the pull of gravity. I was 24 years old.
In July of 2017, I moved to Conshohocken, PA. When driving to my new apartment, I passed a yoga studio called Yoga Home. I saw the “$39/30 days” special for new students, and as a near-broke graduate student, I was enticed by the thought of a cost-effective way to manage my back pain. With my internet finally hooked up, I decided to sign up for a month of unlimited yoga at Yoga Home. I could tell you about my first impressions of Yoga Home’s staff, classes, and community, but I won’t waste any more precious line space. I think the rest of my story can fill you in.
During those initial thirty days, I saw myself changing. Most of the change was in my way of thinking. Instead of forcing my body to do the things it used to do (or, that I really wanted it to do), I tried to listen to my body without judgment. Those thirty days flashed before my eyes. I knew that my practice at Yoga Home had to continue. I am currently writing this blog post from behind Yoga Home’s front desk. It is now February of 2018.
I was recently diagnosed with spinal stenosis and degenerative disk disease. Due to my spinal condition, I have nerve damage to my right shoulder, arm, and hand. It may not be reversible. I would like to tell you that I am used to the periodic moments where my arm feels disconnected from my body. I would be lying if I told you that. Truth be told, my body is doing a lot of strange things that I do not understand. I’m not writing this blog post to tell you that yoga has cured me. But, rather, I wanted to share my story and tell you that yoga has shown me what I am still capable of. Yoga has shown me that my body is my body; it is the only one that I have, so I am going to meet it where it is.
Yoga Home’s message is that “Yoga is for Every Body”. When starting my practice here, I thought, “Sure… It is for ‘every body’ that can do a back-bend”. I know now, this is not the case. Why is completing a back-bend any more important than realizing that your body is not ready for it? On and off the mat, when linking my breath, mind, and body, I am still practicing yoga. When practicing yoga, I feel limitless and free. During those precious moments, my body can think for my mind. I may not ever be able to do a back-bend, but there are still so many things that I can still do. Because of my spinal condition, I am becoming well-versed in the art of “Jess’ body language”. It is so special to know what my body needs in this moment! Can you truly ask yourself, “what does my body need right now”? Well, I am sure you can ask yourself that—but can you answer it truthfully and without judgment?
I am still in the process of learning more about my body’s condition. I never thought I would be faced with chronic pain at such a young age, but then again, I also never thought I’d be able to fold forward and touch my toes. Now, I can rest my palms flat on the floor. Some things are out of our control, but some things are very much in our control: how we listen to ourselves, how we respond to those signals, and how we listen to others.
If you know me, you know that I am not a corny person. If you don’t know me, just trust me… I’m not. But, yoga has changed my life. Truthfully, it has. I’m not sure where my body will be taking me, but I know that I will be bringing my yoga practice along for the ride.