Your Body, Your Story
cover photo by Julie Verlinden Photography
A few years ago, I had a lightbulb moment. Not like, "oh, I remembered what I walked into this room for!", but something much, much bigger. I was many years into a professional entertainment career, singing, dancing, and all that jazz, and it took a toll on my perception of self. I was thin from hours of musical theatre performances per week while simultaneously pursuing my Comprehensive Pilates training. I never stopped moving! I was pure muscle, and a size 0 - 2, but was comparing myself to other girls (with much different body types), and had to have had some body dysmorphia since I didn't recognize my thinness when I looked in the mirror.
Then, one Friday night in January 2014, two weeks before my wedding, I was walking to dinner with my husband when a driver who was paying more attention to his cell phone than to the road -- and rules of the road for that matter -- hit me with his pickup truck. I was in the middle of a pedestrian cross-walk, and the front of the truck struck me between my left shoulder and my left knee. Miraculously, I didn't fall. I managed to hold my balance, in heels nonetheless, and while the driver stopped for a few milliseconds, he soon sped off when he saw my husband taking down his license plate number. Stunned and in a state of shock from the incident, I stood frozen. While the event took less than 30 seconds to happen, I saw it in slow motion. Headlights coming straight in my direction, I remember thinking, I'm going to get hit by a car and that front tire is going to roll over me. Thankfully, I was not run over by any tires, but I have back issues to this day because of this incident. While I didn't sustain any major injuries, I have had muscle spasms in my middle back since then. I went from dancing and exercising almost every day, to having to suddenly stop and slow down to allow my body to recover.
Now, at this point, with a weak middle back from my car accident, I had a hard time with any sort of twisting in my back and neck. My middle back was tight, and I held a lot of tension neck, so getting back into my Pilates and Yoga classes was pretty difficult, and quite humbling. The same holds true for my journey back into fitness after delivering a baby by Cesarean section. (You can read more about my son's difficult journey into this world on my sister site, It's (not too) Complicated). Recovery after a C Section is no joke. It's, quite frankly, brutal. My symptoms were most likely exacerbated by my circumstances -- with my son in the NICU across town, I was traveling back and forth to see him every day, and my body never truly was at rest. Not to mention, I was pumping every two hours, so my body was working overtime. I struggle with a "flap" like blob right above my scar, and tightness from the three layers of stitches underneath the skin. Swan, cobra, and any other sort of backbend or back extension still reveals the tightness on the inside, stretching all the tissue that was sewn together after 8 months of abdominal pressure from growing a baby. It continues to get better with stretching and movement, but it's no walk in the park. Fast forward to a year and a half later, and I have a son who is disabled. At 20lbs, I can still "hang" as I lift him in and out of the crib, tub, high chair, and car seat -- and I have the biceps to prove it. One day, probably sooner than I'd like to think, I'll need help - maybe even in the assistance of a daily aid.
My tight middle back, annoying as it is, represents overcoming unfortunate timing in man vs. machine. My C Section scar, and tender lower abdominals, tells the story of giving life to a child born with more challenges than I have ever known. My biceps are a testament to the physical strength I have had to cultivate to care for my disabled son. So, tight middle back. overdeveloped biceps, and lower abdominal flap in tow, my body reveals my story. My twists could be deeper, my backbends more bendy, and my biceps less bulky, but that's my life, that's my story, engrained in each and every fiber of my physical being.
If you can cultivate patience to work with where your body needs to be at any given point in time, rather than where you want it to be, you will prevent setbacks from unnecessary injury. If you can view your fitness journey as a lifelong process, your body will thank you for it. Respect your body. Honor every break, tear, bruise, and scar and wear your story with pride. We put our bodies through so much, day in, and day out, and it is capable of so many things that we take for granted. If we shower our bodies with gratitude and compassion, truly practicing Ahimsa (Sanskrit for do no harm), we will live our healthiest lives on and off of our mats.