When she was a child, Mel imagined that by the time she turned 56 (an age mirroring her birth year) that she would be "super old". Instead she's discovered that a new life is just beginning: her children are grown, one just married, and she discovered Bikram Yoga and with it relief from her chronic shoulder pain.
Stress, aging, injuries and arthritis all began to create problems for Mel, a teacher by trade. "It looked like I might just have to learn to live with that chronic pain in my left shoulder and that weird hip misalignment, those tight knees and painful wrists..." Luckily, Mel was not so ready to throw in the towel as she imagined those many years ago. Instead she tried traditional gym activities and running (which she still does a few times a week), but I found certain exercises only aggravated the pain in her shoulder.
She needed a long-term solution, as stretching her shoulder against door frames was beginning to become a bit of a family joke. When she heard people talking about "hot" yoga, her curiousity was piquéd and she decided to try it out. "At first I asked to join the 'oldies' class, and the staff let me know there was no such group. In my first session I fought the heat and nausea, and I thought of little else but the buckets of sweat that poured out of my body. I worried about my clothing and how I stacked up to others around me. Then, to my horror, I found out that I needed to grasp my feet behind me while lying on my stomach and my shoulder – I knew that was definitely not going to happen." Happily, Mel didn't give up here, either, but listened to teachers and staff who assured her that flexibility would come in time.
"Personal courage and the cheerful attitude of the staff drew me back. Soon I noticed that I was not aware of anyone else in the class, and clothing was certainly the last thing I needed to worry about. I began to notice subtle shifts in my body; every day I learned more about a particular posture. Old worries about my body and what it could do began to fall away." As Mel's body began responding to the yoga with more mobility and less pain, her mind began to change, too. She let go of her preconceived ideas of what she could or couldn't do. "I was able to let my body take charge of my mind for a brief moment and leave my cares outside the room."
"Now I find my body heals quickly. I am drawn to show up again, and again because this practise is not only giving me my body back, but it is also giving me balance in my life. I have even begun to believe that my shoulder and I have plenty pain free days ahead. Who knows, we may make it through the next 56 years together!"
Confidence, a calm mind and the positivity that comes from freedom from chronic pain are incredible benefits to doing yoga. And Mel hopes that others will enjoy these benefits, too. "I would like to encourage anyone regardless of age, body type and gender to give Bikram a try. Don’t give up after the first session. Keep coming, and one day, like me, you may be able to grasp your feet behind your head and remember how it feels to be alive."
With the support, encouragement, tea and companionship of the staff at Bikram Yoga Maple Ridge, Mel's goals are now: "to lose weight permanently, to continue to strengthen my body and mind and to continue to learn about pain free ways to move into the best part of my life!"