Through a journey of pain and suffering, I meet my compassionate self

For past 4 years, I have been struggling with a debilitating pain in my left shoulder and neck. The pain was so intense that it affected my entire left side right from my head to toe. I could feel the affected nerves in my entire left side of the body. At times, I could see bits of swollen nerves in my left body. The pain would come and go. During periods of stress it would become intense, making it difficult to concentrate or work. This pain was an after effect of a neck injury. While the injury healed after a long period of bed rest and medication somehow the pain in my left shoulder remained.

Initially after the period of medication and rest, as soon as I found time I went for a Vipassana meditation camp. Surprisingly, meditation helped. It greatly reduced the inflammation resulting from the pain. While many meditators find emotional relief after meditation, I actually found physical relief. It was quite astonishing how after meditating for a bit, I would find my pain has subsided. But like all people, I am not very regular with my meditation. Also it didn’t cure the pain completely. The pain continued to affect my ability to work and I remained in constant pain.

Then I started yoga. Yoga brought some relief. I went for long yoga retreats in hope to find a way to deal with this constant pain my nerves. I also completed a 200 hours yoga course and almost completed a 300 hours yoga course so that I can learn more about the anatomy and physiology. The courses helped greatly, in doing yoga with more concentration and awareness of my body.

One of my yoga teachers told me to do regular pranayama. I added 10 min of pranayama after my meditation. Breathing in and out helped greatly, but again I am not regular.

Some people told me you need emotional healing. I tried a few things in an attempt to heal my emotional self. A few months ago, I started learning singing. It was a chance meeting with a music teacher that led to this interest. Singing has helped balance my emotions and has helped me be in touch with a part of myself, which got lost in this hurried pace of life.

All these above activities helped to some extent, yet the pain persisted. For past 2 years, I have been doing yoga and meditation fairly regularly. While it was not recommended, one of my yoga teachers helped me do headstand in her class. With baby steps, I started doing headstands. Initially it was just go and come. Slowly my body became stronger and I started doing for longer. But the pain persisted.

Early this month, I felt that I needed some personal yoga lessons to check upon my progress. I found a yoga teacher online who agreed to come home to give me yoga lessons thrice a week. I told him about my pain. My intention was to only improve upon my yoga postures but he was quite knowledgeable. Like a wise teacher, he said I would prefer that you first strengthen your body and then attempt yoga. And thus began a new journey.

As a single student, my pain was now quite visible during the sessions, limiting my ability to do the exercises he designed for me. So in one of the sessions, he said that we will only focus on your shoulder. He seemed visibly affected by my pain. I could feel his compassion for my pain. He made me do a few exercises with theraband, which I had bought earlier but never really used. And finally after the session, I was free of the pain in my shoulder. Just like that, my shoulder was free. In couple of days, the swelling in my nerves subsided.

I am amazed. They say that the suffering ends, when it has to. You may make efforts but it will persist. I can’t say that my pain has gone because of just this one moment. It has obviously taken me years. In the process, I have learnt many valuable lessons about life and about myself. One of the most lessons I have learned is about being compassionate towards others and most importantly myself. I have also learned that anger whether it is inside or expressed can be the root cause of many problems, even unrelated in our life.

Maybe it is too early for me to feel happy that my shoulder is at last free. But maybe it is. I will be eternally grateful to all the doctors, teachers who have supported and guided me in this painful journey.


Lessons from the yoga mat: Stop dwelling in duality and develop focus

A few days ago as I was checking my Facebook feed, I came across a video interview of BKS Iyengar, in which he talks about how yoga helped him deal with “duality”. The thought struck me. It reminded me of my own tryst to get to my mat every day.

Even though I enjoy my practice, it is not easy to get to the mat. It is not easy to change the habit. Every morning I find myself explaining to my body the benefits of yoga so that I can get to my mat. There are days, I have to literally drag my body on to the mat. At times, I have to tell myself that if I get my practice done, I will have better focus at work. Some days, I am not successful at all and tend to give in to my body.

Although it takes a while, once my body wakes up and starts experiencing the benefits of being on the mat, it thanks my mind. Yet, the debate goes on every morning. This simple exercise of getting to my mat, teaches me a simple lesson that once we stop dwelling on duality and bring our minds to a clear focus, we can enjoy and accomplish many things.

“Duality in our mind” is the root cause of procrastination and unhappiness. Sometimes, we may finish a task but we don’t enjoy it. While we continue to do the work physically, our mind tends to wander elsewhere. This is where yoga helps, when I am on my mat, doing asanas or meditation I learn to focus on my thoughts and body movements. Those brief moments in which my mind becomes focused on the present moment, I experience an inner joy. In those moments, I am just flowing with my true nature.

This is how yoga and meditation change your life. While the physical benefits are tangible and can be easily assessed, it is the mental benefits that bring about change in the long run.