Some thoughts on Yoga

There’s been a long silence on this page, I know I haven’t written like this for ages. Lying down, tapping keys, diffuser on, quiet house. Stuck for time and space my words have been rushed into little Instagram squares typed with one thumb whilst the other stirs a soup/holds a babe/does the laundry. By evening I’m too tired to see a screen, let alone write, replying to messages is about all that’s been getting done. Organising the next day, is all I seem to have energy for. Planning writing days months in advance, losing the spontaneity of a story as it slips through my fingers. Watching the world shift in the last year blowing the family apart. The depths of the tragedy which has wrung out the hearts of my nearest and dearests. Sometimes I feel like I have nothing to say. Nothing to add. That I don’t know how to write anymore. That this blog has become a ramble with no fixed aim? Is it cathartic or business? I yearn to start a fresh one, concise and new, targeted, let this fade into history perhaps…perhaps but then this is my truth; a rambling round and round kind of life.

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Throughout this blog there is one thing I have learnt, been practicing, a thing that has got stronger and stronger in my life, something which seems to constantly be there to fall into, that holds me up even on the very darkest of days, an almost tangible force which only now after almost a decade of regular practice am I starting to feel I finally have a glimpse of what it actually is and that is Yoga. From almost as far back as I can remember I have been drawn to the practice, to the quiet, sacred space it seems to create. I remember watching a woman alone on a Devon beach early one morning when I was a child. She moved and swayed, groaned and breathed in time with the waves, I was hypnotised. The adults I was with hurried me on with a quick ‘Don’t stare darling! Come on.’ I remember she used to appear in my dreams after that sometimes. It’s only with hindsight that I realise she was practicing Yoga.

I think I first started to take Yoga seriously at university, when I was about 18. I remember the flyer for my first class had a picture of a tree on it. I liked trees, I’d been partying a bit too much, I had some notion it would be a ‘good’ thing to do. I remembered that woman on the beach, and I went. I’d love to say that I was hooked from then on that I became a Yogini overnight and dedicated my life to studying the Yogic paths…but it wasn’t quite like that, I was too hedonistic too much of a slave to the rave! I enjoyed it in a somewhat superficial, oh-isn’t-that-nice sort of way. Trying classes, then stopping. It took almost another six years for me to begin practicing at home and even then, through it all I’d say it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve really started to connect to what Yoga is.

It’s become a thread that runs through my life, through Epilepsy and Chronic Pain, through marriage and parenthood, through birth and death, through each day. It’s there in the background constantly. Like a stake pulling me back to earth, grounding, centring, holding. It goes far beyond Asanas, beyond perfect instagram poses. It’s about community and connection, it’s a link to women who’ve become sisters and those who walked before me. It’s thinking about what we eat, watching the seasons spin, and noticing the moon, the ebb and flow of my cycle. It’s loving my family and recognising my place in that. It’s being present with each moment. It’s learning about generosity and ultimately about love.  But more than anything Yoga reminds me how our thoughts create our reality. So we might as well be positive.

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Dear People having-a-shit-time-this-Christmas

Dear People having-a-shit-time-this-Christmas, more specifically Parents, – this is for you!

(I’m tempted to call you Monarchs with a nod to my current blog heroine Constance Hall but it seems contrived. I am not her. But please feel free to don your crowns!)

At this time of year passing windows full of Christmas trees and glittery fairy lights, twinkling out from cosy-2.4-kids-healthy-happy-couples firesides, it’s easy to think you are alone. Trust me. You are not. Those twinkling lights are lying.

This is a note for you. For families like yours, like mine. For those who have lost. For those who are losing ones they love. For those who hadn’t realised how perfect their lives were until that diagnosis, that accident, that moment. For those who have had to say goodbye too soon. I want to say to you;

It is OK to not be OK. Especially now. When The Perfect Family are twinkling away next door.

It is OK to want to run away and never come back.

It is OK to not see your babies as continual-magical-joy-giving-creations

It is even OK to resent them their innocence. It might be taboo. But I swear it is OK.

It is OK because you are not alone in feeling this. Many, or even most parents I reckon feel this, if they don’t then life just hasn’t yet handed them the shit-chips that bring it on. Go them. But they will. We all will. It is normal.

What is abnormal, what is extraordinary is you! When facing this life-altering shit;

You, you glorious being, choosing not to walk out of that door.

You, finding just one reason to kiss your childs head.

You curling your lip to smile, however fleetingly at an innocent gurgle.

That is the real Christmas magic. YOU.

Doing all of that. You. Magic as fuck.

So from one Mama with a heavy heart and tear-stained face to another, I want to say to you. I see you. I hear you. I am here with you. And this Christmas all I hope is that whatever unfolds, you know, somewhere, deep down, that you are loved. Always and forever loved.

hope

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Do you know what it’s like?

Do you know what I see when I cook supper? When I stand at the stove and stir soup. What I see in the bubbles that wash grime off my babe? What I see when we cross roads, climb stairs, sit on a wall, splash in puddles, dip our toes in the sea, lie on the bed, look out of the window, open a door, turn on a tap, switch off a light?

Do you know? I don’t think so. How can you? I’ll give you a clue. It’s not steam and chopped squash, it’s not soapy suds and watery giggles, it’s not cars, or carpets, not bricks and muddy wellies. It’s not salt-spray and cosy blankets, it’s not a way outside or a beautiful view, it’s not running water or the soft glow of an illuminated space. It’s none of that.

And I can hardly bare to type and I’m utterly numb and a wave of guilt for sharing my pain rises up like acid. ‘Self-centered’ and ‘Narcissistic’ float around the keyboard, yet my fingers don’t stop typing as somehow I’ve learnt that I find light though black marks on white paper. I am sorry if you can’t handle it. I don’t want sympathy. I want understanding, I want to feel.

I see my arm jerk out of my control, boiling liquid pour down the oven and burn through the flesh on my babies head, I hear her scream as it melts through her skin like acid, her guts pool round my ankles. I see her limp and lifeless floating in the bath, my own head dripping blood into the tub where I’ve smashed my face against it in a seizure. I see us stopped in the middle of a motorway, confused, I turn just as a car slams us into oblivion. I see rugs wrapped round us so tight that her skins turned purple. I see her alone, face broken as I’ve hit her across the face, my muscles made super-strong by a seizure. That is my reality. That is what I see. That is what I fight. That is what I have to tell myself ‘THIS IS NOT REAL’. This is what I talk to you through. This is why sirens make me jump, loud noises bring tears to my eyes, why I am trying so so hard. This is my everyday.

I am angry and exhausted. So tired of carrying this. So tired of seeing this. So tired of seeing it all on my own. So tired that you don’t see it. So tired of understanding that it restricts oxygen flow to my muscles that makes them scream out in pain and yet still not being able to stop it. So tired of trying to find the light, to stay positive. So tired of carrying this and then daily life on top; of parenting and facing the mortality of loved ones, of everyday responsibility plus this. So tired of learning that not everyone can be my friend, that not everyone can support me. It tips me over an unseen edge and I can’t hold onto it anymore and I can’t cry silently in the shower anymore. And the panic takes hold and I sob at the breakfast table, my daughter wide eyed and confused, her big eyes questioning, asking, imploring; ‘what is it Mama? What is it?’ and I want to tell her and give her some sort of answer but I can’t because I don’t know myself. So I hold her hand and tell her it’s OK even though I don’t believe that it actually is OK. And I try not to wallow and I try just to be and I try to find breath and that elusive Zen I look for so hard.

therapy

And I try to tell myself that every day I fight this Demon adds another star to my crown. That while I stand in the kitchen, see you in person, send a text to you, whastapp, facebook, skype, my face’s smiling, my mouth chatting. I’m still fighting. That through all that everydayness there’s a sword stuck to my hand and I’m locked into this endless battle with a demon that I hope you will never see. The sword’s so heavy its broken my arm, yet I still can’t let it go. It’s burnt into my flesh, welded to the bone and I have to keep fighting or else I’ll be consumed and you might be too. .And somedays, like today the Demon is so close I feel its foul breath and somedays I wish that you could all see. That I am trying so very very hard, that I love so very much. And occasionally if my sword catches you too, then I’m so very sorry I hope you know that I never meant to hurt you. I’m just trying to stay here. With you.

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An open letter to my family & friends

To my Dearest friends and family, acquaintances, blog followers and web-friends,

This is an open letter to you all. If you only read one thing on this blog let it be this. Lately I have really struggled watching people I love suffer from; back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia, sciatica, RSI, tennis elbow, joint pain, headaches, migraines, gastrointestinal and urogenital conditions, repetitive coughs, eczema, allergies, tinnitus, dizziness, repeated infections and more physical issues. Some of these conditions are mild, but many are recurring and life-interrupting for you.

I have listened as you have told me that these things are;

  • “because I have bad posture”
  • “because I am getting older”
  • “because I should really have surgery on it soon!”
  • because I must not bend/lift/run/walk like that or it’ll get worse”
  • “because I have been told my leg/hip/back/arm/foot is out of alignment”
  • “because an MRI scan showed I have slipped/prolapsed discs / degenerative disc disease”
  • “Because I didn’t wash the pillows/dry my hair properly/went swimming”
  • “Because it runs in the family so I obviously have it too…”

Most of the time I just bite my lip, listen and nod and try to hope that somehow you’ll find a way to heal. Commonly I have noticed that nearly everyone believes two things about their condition; firstly that it has a physical cause and secondly that you can only manage it and never be cured. Many friends and family tell me how they simply ‘can’t lift’ anymore, or ‘sit-like-that’ or they will get worse. Every time I hear that, I remember how I used to think that myself. Thinking ‘I am broken, I will never…’ but the thing is, now I do ALL of that and more! And I’m not lucky. I am simply informed and courageous enough to act on my information. I am writing this to you because it is my greatest hope that someone out there might listen and take courage and believe in a complete cure too.

When you ask;

  • How’s your slipped discs?
  • Have you tried this therapy/ this piece of machinery to help you?

I know you ask with love, even though I’ve tried to explain a million times now; that just because an MRI I had two years ago showed three slipped discs does not mean they were the root cause of my pain. I have infact put that diagnosis out of my mind entirely, it’s misleading and unhelpful.

The truth is actually that the root cause of my ‘back pain’ is the same root cause as your: fibro, sciatica, RSI, tennis elbow, joint pain, headaches, migraines, gastrointestinal and urogenital conditions, repetitive coughs, eczema, allergies, tinnitus, dizziness and repeated ear / eye / throat and chest infections! It really is. This might seem like a mad and somewhat arrogant claim and certainly one many do not accept. However, a growing, number of leading scientists do now agree. The truth is that all these conditions are merely symptoms of one main factor; stress. Now it is crucial to point out that this does NOT mean that it is ‘all in your mind’ infact I now believe that many more conditions are stress-induced than have a physical cause.

 So if it’s not ‘all in my mind’ how can an emotion cause a physical symptom?

Very easily. Infact it happens to us all, all the time. Common emotions causing physical symptoms, are;

  • Embarrassment; blood may rush to your cheeks causing blushing.
  • Sexual Feelings; the brain diverts blood to genitals causing an obvious physical response with an erection.
  • Fear; your mouth may go dry, heart rate increases, your hair stands on end, you may hyperventilate.

The most important thing to note here is that all of these physical changes happen as a result of an emotion and cannot be caused by conscious intent. In other words they are very REAL and rooted in the unconscious. It is not fluffy hippy-trippy-stuff, it is not ‘an-approach’, it is not ‘a belief’, this is real hard-science fact, that western medicine is gradually beginning to accept.

Another fact I learnt recently is that 90% of people with back pain stop seeking treatment within 3 months even though some form of the pain persists. Those people will develop some form of disability thinking they can no longer do certain activities. Of that group 20% will develop depression. Most horrendously, a review of a dozen studies from 2006 showed that chronic pain doubled the risk of suicide; with one in five thinking about it and one in ten attempting it. Grim stats indeed.

So dear ones, my message to you is this; you can, all of you heal from these things if you only have the courage to look at your feelings. Next time you find yourself saying “I can’t; lift / sit / run / dance / bend / swim like that…” stop, think. If you accepted that it is your emotions that are to blame and not your (you think) broken-bodies then, I promise you would be able too. It is hard and scary, you can’t do it alone. There is help and I’m still learning myself. But everything worth doing is scary and what could be more worth it than your health?

Much Love to all, I hope something here speaks to you. Please see below some links to some sciency-folks and their books who can give you the proper geek breakdown on all of this! Enjoy! Lucy xxx

 

Georgie Oldfield MCSP

Dr Sarno

David Hamilton PhD

PR Croft British Medical Journal (PMID: 9563990) 1998 1356-9

Chronic Pain Policy Connect

C Alba-Delgado Biological Psychiatry (PMID: 22854119)

Harvard Mental Health Letter 2004

Psychological Medicine (PMID: 16420727)

wisdom

 

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