I signed up for my first yoga class in 2000 at the urging of a family friend.
I had spent the six months leading up to this class lying in bed with back and joint pain – pain so debilitating it had resulted in me quitting school and moving home to live with my parents at the age of 20. The cause of my pain was unknown.
At first it was only clear to me that yoga didn’t make things worse. However, as my interest in yoga grew and my asana practice developed, things began to shift in my body. I found I could tailor my practice, making it energizing to lift depression and fatigue, or relaxing to soothe anxiety and insomnia. I also noticed that a regular practice kept pain levels manageable. If I went too long between sessions, pain levels shot up and down, but if I practiced every day or two, my pain evened out.
Through the lens of yoga and mindfulness, I began to see my body differently; rather than something to be silenced by pain killers, I could work with the messages my body was sending me.
My Personal Practice
A decade later, getting on my mat each morning was as automatic as brushing my teeth. It was part of my routine, and going without was enough to put an entire day off-kilter. In the years since the onset of my pain I hadn’t stopped looking for a diagnosis, but my yoga practice had lessened the urgency. I was still in daily pain, but with yoga the pain was manageable. Thanks to yoga I was living life, rather than surviving it. By 2010, I had travelled to more than 30 countries, lived and worked on three continents, completed a PhD in Linguistics, become a yoga teacher, married my best friend, and together we had brought a healthy baby boy into the world.
Finally, in 2010, I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Since beginning treatment for Lyme disease I have made steady gains and reduced my pain by about 90%. Meanwhile, yoga continues to support me through the challenges of my illness and recovery. My practice is flexible; it changes and adapts to provide me with what I need, whether that is a deeply restful restorative practice, a cleansing pranayama practice, or a good old stretch-and-sweat in the hot room.
Buddhism teaches that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Through yoga, I have learned to live with pain, and I have accessed tools to minimize, if not avoid, suffering. Tools as simple as a deep breath, as available as reaching for my toes, and as profound as the principle of ahimsa (non-harming), these have been my medicine, my therapy, and my guide.
I Teach What I Know
As a yoga teacher, I believe I can only teach what I know. Therefore, my teaching is grounded in my own yogic journey, informed by everything I know about the science of yoga, the human body, and the relentless moment that is now. I’m passionate about sharing this knowledge with anyone on the yogic path, but I especially find myself drawn to (and perhaps most useful to) those living with pain – whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.
Let’s start there.
Images © 2014 Kristen Klein