Sometimes when you live with something, when it is so deeply a part of you, you just forget about it. It is such a part of who you are that you don’t think to ask yourself, “What is this thing?” Because it’s not a thing - it’s woven into you.
This is how I feel about my fused spine.
I can barely remember what life was like before scoliosis. Memories of a life before spinal fusion are also becoming distant - I have now been fused longer than I haven't. I don’t remember what it feels like to be in a deep backbend, to twist until my back cracks, to slump into a couch… I have a few pictures of me as a child doing these things, but I can no longer remember the feeling. I think now that it must have felt good, expect that I probably didn’t notice it then - my un-fused spine was just a part of who I was, and it didn’t feel like anything special. But now, what I wouldn’t give to be able to bend and twist and crack and slump! Now, my fused spine is such a part of me that it informs the way I do everything: how I walk, drive, and put on socks; which chairs I choose to sit in and which to avoid; how much sleep I need; how I talk to my body; and of course, how I practice yoga.
For years, it didn’t occur to me how much my scoliosis and fused spine informed me, or how much I have adapted because of it. Some people would note my “perfect” posture; others would comment on my uneven ribs, or tell me that one shoulder was higher than the other (as if I didn't know); and only then would I think to say, “Oh, yeah - I have scoliosis and spinal fusion - that’s why.” But over the past decade, I have started to pull at some of these threads, to question what it has meant for me to have scoliosis and spinal fusion. I have started to ask myself, “How has this influenced me?” and “Who am I because of this?” At first, these questions were painful to sit with, but over time, I have felt my patience grow and my heart soften. And while the journey has not been linear, here are a few things I have learned (and continue to learn, again and again):
I was extremely angry at my body for a very long time.
I need to feel - and express - that anger.
I love my body so much.
I need to feel - and express - that love.
My body is holding an unbelievable amount of pain.
My body is also holding an unbelievable amount of joy and pleasure.
I am connected to this world through my body - I am connected to others through this body - how could I not love this body?
When I think about why I teach yoga, the first thing that always comes to mind is: To encourage people to love themselves more fully. For me, this journey started with loving my body. When I say love, I mean the action - not simple admiration. When I say I am learning to love my body, I mean that I am trying to treat it kindly, to accept it as it is, to let it move, to let it rest, to listen to it patiently, to thank it for everything it does. I try to show my body love in the same ways that I try to show my family and friends that I love them. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes I am just plain grumpy, or feel like my body isn’t loving me so why should I love it?! But I try to remember that we - and our bodies - are all doing the best that we can. And we do better, not when we are shamed or shunned, but when we’re nourished, appreciated, and actively loved.
If you’re reading this, welcome, and congratulations - you, too, have a body! And whatever your body looks like, feels like, and has been through, your body has a story. Your body, too, has helped make you who you are.
My hope is that you, too, are striving to love your body, and to appreciate its stories.
My hope is that, if we treat our bodies with the care we need, we will be able to treat each other with the care we all need.
My hope is that we can work patiently, and remember that sometimes, it takes some unweaving to weave again.
Whether you have a story like mine, or a story that is completely different, I invite you to share a bit of your story below. Welcome. I can't wait to meet you.