For years I lived from my head. It was a way to survive and the only way I knew to live. I could not rely on my body to take me through life and so I relied on my intellect. While this enabled me to achieve high academic honors and have an award winning career at the VA, it did not allow me to feel whole and live from my heart. Last night on American Idol, the producer coaching one of the singers said, "Take your head out of it," and allow the emotions to flow through you. During my individual yoga lessons, Pat Donaher coaches me to lead with my chest. Pictured above is the Upward Dog pose in which you have to lead with your chest and open your heart in order to get into the pose. I love the feeling I experience when I am able to lead with my chest and open. In 2009, after running the Boston Marathon, I returned to outpatient rehab at the Newton Wellesley Hospital Cervical Spine Center. My physical therapist pointed out to me how I was always sticking my neck out and leading with my head. She has given me exercises to do which I continue to do every morning to strengthen the neck muscles to bring my head back into alignment with my body.
During a Vinyasa class with Anna Ward, I remember the feeling of doing a modified back bend and feeling my heart chakra open. For someone who always lived from my head and was disconnected from my body, this is a mystical experience.
On Tuesday I went out for a run in the cold. In the middle of the run, my left hip began growling at me. I thought, 'hmmm what is this?' I ran through it and when I got home I stretched. I couldn't give it much thought because we had our fund raiser Tuesday night. I was on my feet for over two hours. I also realized that I hadn't taken a rest day last week from exercise. Although I wasn't doing a 'formal workout' on Sunday, I did do a grandparent in training stint for my friend, Doug Welch, during his 36K Virtual Run. Yesterday I decided to take a complete rest day. I iced and stretched and breathed beautiful healing energy into my hip. I did my retraining exercises and was very gentle with myself.
Today it was cold out and while my hip feels so much better, I decided to take to the recumbent bike for my cardio work out. I realized that I have nothing to prove; never did have anything to prove and I can love myself and be gentle with myself honoring whatever is happening with my body. My husband joked with me this morning and said I needed to re-read my own poetry. Here is the first poem I wrote after being diagnosed with post polio syndrome:
Running the Race - Feb, 2007
Early summer 1959 my kindergarten year
Everyone around me filled with nervous fear
Despite the Salk vaccine hope polio would disappear
The polio virus crept right up and knocked me in the rear.
Dancing all around the gym feeling free just like a bird
I dropped to the ground just like a stone and no one said a word.
The pain it was so searing-the diagnosis even worse
"It's polio" the doctor said...he was abrupt and terse.
Called one of the 'lucky ones' I had a 'mild case'
But with the other athletes I could never keep their pace.
Miss Holly physical therapist, curly hair and a warm, broad smile
It tempered the pain of being apart - to walk I'd take awhile.
I always wore those 'special' shoes the kids they poked and teased
With no support and much abuse with childhood I wasn't pleased.
But put nose to the grindstone and learned all that I could
I couldn't kick a ball but my grades were always good.
Years went by and no more thought to polio did I give
I accepted the limp and everything else and decided
my life I would live.
But symptoms of weakness and muscle pain did grow
I kept a stoic face hoping noone else would know.
Life no longer was my own I struggled through each day
Suffered in silence, isolated from friends-
trying to keep depression at bay.
And with the grace of glorious God my world it opened wide
I discovered there was a Post Polio team and they were on my side.
Using wheelchair to travel, set limits on what I could do,
Resulted in joy to realize I could live life anew.
Celebrated my body- creaks, groans and need for a brace
While in my mind I focused on winning a 10K race.
Sought out paths for healing and my spirit flew free
For the first time in life, I could truly be me.
The chains are gone and possibilities abound
I'm a tree with my roots planted firmly in ground.
I'm now off the sidelines, no need to sit and whine
So much gratitude fills my heart and love and beauty shine.
After all these years I can join the loving human race
I exceed all expectations and now I set the pace.
As I was on the bike I incorporated what Anna says during yoga class. Take notice of what is happening in your body. I noticed that my left side does not have the flow that my right side has as I pedal. It's as though ankle, knee and upper leg are all fused together. I placed no judgment but used a phrase my husband uses, "unclinging curiousity." I rocked out to my iPod running playlist and then I noticed on my phone I had an email which told me that there was another donation to my husband's Boston Marathon run fund raising page. I was whisked away to a different place feeling my heart open and feeling the rush of gratitude for how generous everyone has been with donations.
When I came back into my body after taking my head out of it, I noticed there was more flow in my left leg. It was more relaxed and working in tandem with my right leg. But this is something that would not have happened if I tried to 'will' it to happen. I had to let go and let my heart go to a place of gratitude and joy. I had a great ride for my 10 miles with sweat pouring and a great cardio work out according to my heart monitor. But I knew I had a great cardio work out for my heart without even looking at 'the numbers' because I took my head out of it, and led from my chest.
The Gift of Polio
Thank you God for the gift of polio which brought me so close to You
While paralyzed I saw Your face no matter what I'd do.
Many wonderful people, You sent them to me at age 5
Perseverance and triumph life's lessons learned by my
Spirit could not yet thrive!
At age 53 the gift was sent to me a second time
Having time to sit and feel, to heal I started to rhyme.
The second time more worse than the first
yet Your love and wisdom I found.
From pain and weakness and fatigue
A remarkable Spirit rebound.
Reliving all the trauma of special shoes and such
I discovered so many incredible healers
who brought such a loving touch.
I had no clue I had such strength and the ability to grow
No matter what the outcome, deep gratitude I show.
And from that place so dark and deep, my body could not move
I took the reins and gained control, this time with nothing to prove.
This gift so precious, I live a new life, gratitude flows from me
My heart and soul are filled with Grace and each day's a gift from Thee.
(From New World Greetings:Inspirational Poetry and Musings for a New World)
Links to enjoy:
Sweat and Soul Yoga
Miles for Miracles
God bless, be well and live like you were dyin'
From my heart to yours with love and gratitude,