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  • Writer's pictureCharlie Harrison


Updated: Apr 13, 2020


Each of us has a different body based on our different lives. Our bodies hold the story of our lives. Find a scar on your body, think of the story that accompanies that scar. Can you see the lessons in that scar? Can you see the change that it brought you? Can you notice the shift or growth? I will explain what I mean through my shoulder surgery. It was not just shoulder surgery but rather it was a story and patterns of behavior that came to light because of this injury.  I was in pain for well over a year until I decided that maybe a doctor could help (I can’t do everything on my own). The first time I noticed the pain was when I tried to take a jug of milk out of the fridge and my arm gave out. I waited thinking it would go away (I have more important things to do then take care of my health?). I went to yoga teacher training smelling of Tiger Balm for 9 months because it was going to heal by itself (I was comfortable pushing through pain and existing in a state of struggle. It was familiar and sorta comfortable.). 

Bob, Andy and Jesse having a cookie after yoga. This was Andy’s last class with us at the Martinez, VA before he embarked on a new chapter of his life in Florida. These 3 guys have been coming to yoga with me for close to 3 years. Jesse and Andy were taking yoga before I was teaching this class. I have heard that Jesse has a pretty solid home practice that he is using to get through this period of physical isolation. Yoga is for all of us.
Bob, Andy & Jesse after Tuesday Veterans Yoga class

About 6 months after training was over I was doing a handstand in class and my whole shoulder went dead and I collapsed. That was when I decided that it would take more than wishing to heal my shoulder. I had surgery and began that process. Sitting still, not moving, had it’s own set of lessons that are for another post. Through this process I began to see patterns of behavior that were not serving me. Imagine for a second how I was breathing for that year of pain. Likely, I was holding my breath a lot as we do in pain. We know that when you hold your breath your nervous system gets turned on and you move into some degree of fight or flight. Pain causes the nervous system to work overtime creating more chemicals to be released into the body. These are stress related chemicals that are supposed to signal danger and the need to move. Because I was trying to tough it out and push through the pain I was stuck in this pattern of living in struggle mode. 

When I looked at that idea on a larger scale I started to see all of the ways that I let struggle direct my life. Then I began to see how much struggle mindset had been part of my upbringing and what my family had taught me. I began to understand how struggle had crept  into my life from the jobs that I had chosen, to holding off on surgery and many other choices and paths that I had chosen. When I began to notice this pattern I wondered, what if I let go of struggle? How can I shift out of struggle? Enter gratitude. This was a fundamental shift in my thinking. If you have taken my class you know that I end class in a moment of gratitude.  It is on purpose and has power. By including gratitude practices into most all of my activities I have found a tool that helps me experience life in a much more uplifted way. 

So how does all of this relate to doing the part of the pose that works for your body? My story about my shoulder surgery is a very blatant example of how our stories stay in our bodies and how realizing our stories help us to move on. On the mat is where I first began to notice this expression of struggle through how moved into my poses and how I thought about my practice. I used to find myself pushing into every pose or situation. I used to use everything as an opportunity to push to the edges which is part of why I fell in that handstand. My shoulder was in no condition for a handstand. There was a part of the pose that I could have done. That tumble lead me down a path that unraveled a story for me.

Now I try to listen to my body and do the part of the pose that is safe. I can also choose to do the part of the pose that feels nourishing to my body today without pushing to an edge. Some days I am lit up and energized and I want to go hard to burn off some excess energy. Other days I feel heavier and like a gentle twisting and stretching is what is going to feel best. Either way these are choices that I make each time I sit on my mat and begin to listen to my body and what it needs in that moment. I invite each of you to begin your yoga practice with a couple moments of stillness, of deep listening to yourself so that you can be aware and do the part of the pose that works for you each and every time.

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