Two Dog Tales

Yoga for Pain Relief

By Kathleen Dowd - July 2018 Two Dog Newsletter

On pain…


There is a saying that “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. I think of that saying frequently – sometimes it feels easier to believe and embrace than other times. Ultimately though, I do believe it to be true.


This concept has been tested for me recently more than at any time in my life.


Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of pain. For years I dealt with chronic physical pain, something that led me to develop my Yoga for Pain Relief series that I offer a couple times per year. I won’t go into the details but suffice to say that I had pain in my body for so many years that I thought it would just be a fact of life for me. I’ve managed to move through and release some of it, only to develop pain in other areas of my body. I’ve gone through periods where I thought it would never end and periods where I felt I had released it and would free of pain forever.


For physical pain, I came to see that for me it is a matter of how I relate to the pain in my body; pain that continues to come and go. I felt I had gotten to a relatively good place in terms of addressing and living with physical pain.


This year, however; was different. This year I was confronted with a new kind of pain, an emotional pain unlike anything I’d ever experienced. My dad died suddenly, on January 6, 2018. There was no warning and, more significantly, no opportunity to say goodbye. One day he was with us and the next morning he wasn’t. I was very close with my father and the pain I felt with his death was not only unique, it was truly the most gut-wrenching heartache, heart pain, I had ever known.


This new experience of emotional pain, of deep, deep sadness and grief, opened my eyes to a whole new way of understanding pain. Not only was I deeply sad and grieving, I could feel a physical pain/ache in in my heart that was indicative of the depth of emotional pain in my psyche. The connection between body, mind, and soul (which yoga philosophy talks about and life teaches us first hand) became even more clear to me. Truly my body, on all levels, was experiencing pain.


For a while I could not relate to my pain, I could barely function; I simply existed as a being in the depths of grief. I was overwhelmed, and I had no choice but to allow myself to be supported by those around me who were there to love and hold me. Grief ruled my life, plain and simple. Every action I took, every decision I made - grief was the one in charge. 


As time moved on, I became more able to lean back and see the pain with a bit of distance between myself and the experience of searing emotional pain I was having. I could see and feel my deeply aching heart with a sense of loving compassion. I could notice and ride the waves of grief with a sense of open-heartedness to what was happening. I started to be able to relate to my pain and, more significantly, I slowly developed the strength and desire to be fully present for this tremendous experience, as painful as it was. The desire for mindful awareness grew within me.


Eventually, I was able to develop a sense of tenderness for myself and my pain. The waves of grief that would bowl me over came with less frequency and in those in between periods I started to develop compassion for myself, my heart, and my experience, just as it was.


I can see now how my skills and ability to relate to my physical pain ultimately served me in the process of grieving the loss of my father and the emotional pain that accompanied me on that journey. In a very real sense, these types of pain are very similar. How we relate to our pain, any type of pain, makes a difference.


In the Yoga for Pain Relief series that I developed we work with many different strategies to relate to our pain, to find some separation a between who we are as humans and the pain we experience at any given moment. There are strategies for each level of the body – physical, energetic, mental/emotional, and beyond. They will each resonate uniquely for different people. Together we work through the experience of pain as a very real human experience so that we may reduce the suffering of being in pain alone.


I hope you will join me for this four-week series, Monday evenings in August at Two Dog Yoga. Click here for details….


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