Recently, we spent some time visiting a friend of the family in the country. The same day we arrived, their 8-year old son, Leon* injured his neck on the trampoline in their backyard.For the remainder of the day, Leon lay on the bed in such great pain he could not turn his head or sit up.

Knowing that I had studied anatomy and work with people who are injured, Leon’s parents welcomed my professional expertise about his condition.  No one was sure how serious it was, but in the back of all our minds, we were thinking that Leon might have to go to the hospital if things did not improve.  In the meantime, I suggested trying acupuncture, homeopathy, and lots of rest.

To bring a little comfort, I gave Leon a foot massage focusing on the points in the foot that relate to the head and neck.  To be safe, I did not touch or manipulate his neck, as I did not want to risk further injury in his delicate state.  As I was massaging his feet, Leon relaxed and murmured that when his father massaged his feet, it hurt, but I was being so gentle.  Later his father told me that he called me “The Gentle Lady.”

The next day, his father recounted the terrible night they had had. Leon had spent the night “screaming and complaining.”  In the morning, a local physiotherapist made a house call and pressed on the most painful part of Leon’s neck, causing even more distress and tears.  Eventually the muscles in his neck stopped spasming and Leon was able to move around and tolerate a short swim in the pool.  The father sounded satisfied that the son was getting over the pain, or more importantly, the fear of the pain.

The father then said something that I will always remember because it struck such a chord in me:

“He’s gotta learn that you have to push through pain in life.”

In my head, I saw a tremendous  explosion; sparks flew, dust swirled; I was blinded momentarily by my own vision.

The world of parenthood, and the world of Yoga and MELT had just collided.

I took a deep breath and then said calmly “I don’t believe that. There is always another way.”

“But he’s fine now. He’s moving around.”

“The pain was there for a reason. It was the body’s attempt to immobilize an injured joint so no further damage could occur and the healing could begin.”

“But the physiotherapist…”

“PT has a different philosophy.  In Yoga and MELT, we never cause pain to get out of pain.”

The conversation ended there, with hopefully no hard feelings. When I saw Leon later that day, he was certainly mobile and jumping around.  But I watched as his mother “corrected” him, straightening his cocked head and pushing down on his high shoulder.  He just wasn’t standing quite right.  The memory of the pain was still there, still fresh.  And his nervous system was still trying to protect him so the deeper healing could take place.

I reflected on this “painful lesson” on our way home.  It seemed to me that everyone has a history of how they were taught to deal with pain from childhood.  When we fell, we we bled, when we cried… were we allowed to express our pain freely?  Or were we told to stop complaining and get on with it?  Were we encouraged to listen to pain as a helpful safety signal of the body, like a stop sign to a car… or were we told to ignore the pain as a nuisance and push through?  We all know that you can get away with running a stop sign occasionally, but sooner or later you are going to crash.

Our relationship to pain is one way to see how connected we are to what’s going on inside.  Both Yoga and MELT help build the kind of body awareness that it takes to negotiate the signs and signals we receive from our inner depths.  And both help us enjoy and appreciate the scenery around us during the “ride”.

Speaking of listening to your body, the Ten-Week Transformation Program is starting September 26.  In this new program, you’ll be immersed in the practice of MELT along with other women who are ready to make big changes in how they look, feel and move.  Can you sense the possibilities here for a better outlook on life?  If you do, then email me today!

I hope everyone had a good, safe, and healthy summer, and I look forward to starting up a great season full of workshops and classes.

+Edya Kalev, MA, MELT, RYT-500, MOM 

*Name has been changed to respect privacy.