When you are not at your best

I teach posture. Posture to help people move with no pain. Posture to help people get rid of that dull ache in the back, a niggle in the neck or stiffness in the shoulders. I was getting ready to teach the 3-day course to 8 students. They had all signed up after listening to my testimonial of returning to a pain-free life post 16 years of debilitating back pain. Only recently, I had stood up, in front of hundreds of people and talked about how my pain was a memory of the past, and that I couldn’t even remember how it felt to be hurting in the back. These students had signed up with hope and eagerness to get rid of the pain they were suffering from.

Just 4 days before the course, my back gave out! It completely refused to hold me up and went into spasms. After nearly 4 years of no pain, here it was with a bang to remind me about the suffering. It seemed to be some sort of a revenge for saying that I had forgotten it completely. It was physically hard and challenging. I was reminded of how much it hurts to lie down, sit up or just walk when the back is in spasm. I also remembered how I felt totally helpless when such episodes happened in the past.

To say that I was disheartened, would be an understatement. I was worried about my upcoming classes and the hopeful students.  It felt ironical that I had to work with them on techniques to help reduce pain, when my own body was in pain. I wondered how I could deliver something physically demanding each day for over 3.5 hours. I felt uncomfortable.

In the past when I had such pain episodes, I would be down and out for at least a week. I would also feel hopeless from within. This time it was different. While I did suffer the physical pain, I did not feel helpless, I knew where I had gone wrong, why my body was reacting the way it was, and what I could do to calm it down. I was recovering much faster than I would have in the past. And a day prior to the class, I was able to do all my normal chores with much ease. Yet, I did not feel the best in my body or mind. I felt unsure of myself for not being at my best and voiced this concern to my teacher.

A few hours before my class was to begin, I got a message from my posture teacher. She felt that teaching would be good for me at this stage as I would be super aware of my own posture and the small movements would help me. But the most important message I heard from her was “…remember that you don’t have to be perfect or have a perfect record to be helpful to people…”. It was this philosophical stance that gave me clarity. I knew that, what I had to offer would  help people on their path. And my not being at my best need not come in the way of them experiencing the best that is possible for them.

With this in mind I taught my class of 8. For three days, every time I was in the class, for those 3.5 hours, I had no sense of pain in my body. I was in a zone where I could bend or lift or lie down and get up with no pain. I realized that when my focus was the others and helping others, the pain in me “disappeared”. On the final day when I shared with them that I had just recovered from a bad back, they were in disbelief that I was up and teaching all the time with without flinching at any challenging movement. They saw the potential of the techniques and felt hopeful what they had learnt would stand them in good stead.

At the end of the course, we had one student who had a significant transformation in her posture. And she wrote to me saying “Sangeeta, I feel that the last three days have been “life changing “. I thank you for this. Apart from learning the techniques, this has made me feel very positive.” This message was a moment of truth- when you are not at your best, think of what you can do for others, and magically you find a hidden source of power to be strong even with the vulnerabilities. That to transmit positive energy one does not have to be at one’s best, one just needs to extend the circle of concern from self to the other. The possibility of hope that is present in every situation transforms any sense of inadequacy.

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