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Joy and Pain

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” - Henri J.M. Nouwen

Last year, I was attending a movement training for the Reembody Method that I practice. During this three day event, we spent a lot of time doing hands on work (pre-pandemic) on each other--twisting limbs, doing lots of falling, and learning all about fear states.

We work on practicing manual techniques on each, as well as diving deep into plenty of emotional work.

At the end of the last day of the workshop, I pulled something in my back and was in so much pain that I could barely stand up. I remember lying there curled up in a ball on the floor while the other participants finished up the day’s activities. I remember feeling angry that I couldn’t finish, and didn’t know how this had happened.

As the workshop finished, I was able to get myself standing with the help of friends, and hobbled with a few other students to a nearby restaurant for some food.

That evening was the evening we had a group event scheduled to go ice skating. This was a group activity that I had actually suggested and was really looking forward to. Being on the ice was one of my favorite activities as a child and teenager, and I was really excited to get the chance to be out there again and enjoy it with friends.

Over food, I expressed my disappointment to my friends and then, still in pain, I decided to follow them, hobbling along, to the rink, as I settled to watch from the sideline.

When we got to the rink, my back was still in a tremendous amount of pain. I waited with a few friends for the others to arrive and for the public skate to start. When my friends went to pay and get their skates, I wanted to join them more than ever, but could hear this little voice inside my head telling me that there is no way I could go out there with this pain, and what would happen if I fell?!? I could seriously injure myself! Something in me decided to completely ignore that little voice inside and rent a pair of skates anyway.

Still unsure that I was actually going to skate, I carried my skates down to the rink. When I went through the doors into the rink, I could feel the blast of cold air on my skin, and smell the strong scent of the ice as the childhood memories came flooding back.

It was that same sweet smell I remembered from childhood. I had flashbacks of my sister and I getting dropped off almost weekly at our rink growing up, hanging out together and eating as much candy as we wanted from the vending machines. Hanging out at the rink as a teenager with cousins and friends, and the time I played hockey in my 20's.

I decided at that point, I was just going to put the skates on to see how they felt. As I laced them up and came to standing, it was almost like I was transported magically back to the body of that 12 yr old girl.

I stepped out onto the ice and had almost completely forgotten that just a short while ago, I was barely able to walk. I pushed off, and within minutes, was flying around the ring like a teenager again! Filled with joy and absent of pain, I floated around for what seemed like hours without a care in the world. The pain had completely disappeared, and I was free!

Even today, I can still remember the feeling I had in my body moving on the ice that night...the connection, the fun, the joy! I can also remember the feeling I had in my body as I left the workshop that afternoon...the stiffness, the pain, the disappointment.

Throughout that week, we talked a lot about how bodies move differently under threat, but what I hadn’t fully experienced until that evening, was just how differently they move under joy!

What if, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we've had the power all along to move our bodies differently? To ease our own pain? What if just simply imagining joyful activities could influence our quality of movement?

Since leaving that workshop last year, I’ve had the opportunity to see firsthand how finding our joy in movement can help many women navigate through their own pain experiences. We use familiar "joyful" movements to help improve movement patterns that are uncomfortable, challenging, or causing pain. We get up out of chairs by shooting basketballs, find confidence in ballet poses, feel free by imagining ourselves skating, and have bowl and paddle our way up stairs.

As you go about your daily activities today, I ask you - "what are YOUR joyful movements?" How do they feel in your body? How do you move differently when you're doing them? Where can you find more connection? In which movements can you choose joy over pain?

Carrie Craven is a holistic movement practitioner who owns and operates Your Health First llc out of Portland, OR. Since 2013, she's been devoted to helping women make their own health and wellness a priority by learning new ways to explore movement in order to improve activities of daily living, reduce injury, feel more connected, and enhance efficiency. See how we can work together.

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