Recently I was in a workshop where the teacher asked if anyone in the room had back pain. I raised my hand, I have had back pain for a very long time. The teacher then looked at me and asked if it was chronic or recent? I paused, like really paused. I didn’t want to say the word. It carried too much meaning. Chronic is forever, never going away, always present, a lot of stuff was going through my head, it was as if saying the word out loud would mean I was giving in to it and making it true. There was big resistance. Eventually I spoke the word, but I didn’t like it, not one little bit.

So I have been thinking about that moment, that pause of resistance. What was that about? I have been practicing yoga for long enough to know that things change physically and energetically in your body, and I’ve had no problem accepting that on certain days my practice and my life will reflect that. The resistance that I felt in that pause however came from a deeper place, it was fear. Fear that if chronic is my reality then the pain and restrictions I feel in my body are permanent and I guess I’m not sure what that means for my life or if I’m even willing to accept that.

I love to be active, to be outdoors, to hike and climb high, and I love yoga. Does chronic mean that I can no longer do these things? I don’t know, maybe someday these loves will be taken from me, but I can’t live my life there, waiting in fear for someday. All I have is this day, and on this day I have choice. I can choose to live fully with what is, or live in fear of an imagined future, and isn’t that true for all of us no matter what our circumstances.

So today I woke up and did yoga and then went for a long hike in the woods, it was an act of celebration and defiance, and it felt great. I thought of all the places my body has taken me and all that it has taught me along the way. Working with back pain has given me deeper insight into my own self and I have found new levels of compassion for my body on and off the mat. It is teaching me radical self acceptance and a deep appreciation for life and movement. It has made me a better yogi and I hope a better teacher.

It’s not easy, there are times when I find myself in struggle or story around the pain. I want it to be different, to go away. So each day I choose to live in the space outside of the pain and even in the reluctant acceptance of the chronic nature of my condition I know that there is always room for miracles and healing. In my life and in every life. In the meantime I choose to live fully, in movement, in joy, in gratitude and in grace.

Kelly Dunfee

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