I’m a total sucker for Thanksgiving, I admit it.
Anything that brings together epic amounts of food, people you love, and gratitude is a winner in my book. That said, I thought I’d leave the food and loved ones to you guys and write a little body gratitude list this Thanksgiving week.
As my grandmother always said, “If you have your health, you have everything.” Before you start swooning and thinking “Aaaah, cute Grandma anecdote!” Imagine instead, she said that phrase in a tone only someone who grew up poor—as the youngest of six girls to a single mom during the depression; oh, and spent two of those childhood years in a state hospital with tuberculosis—can.
In other words, when she said that phrase it didn’t have a sunny Mary Poppins tone to it. She meant that shit. And you know what? She’s pretty much right on with that one!
So without further adieu, I am grateful for:
1. My birth injury.
There’s just no way around the fact that having had a birth injury (a cord strangulation injured my upper cervicals, gave me Bell’s Palsy, seizures, TMJ, and some seriously tight tissue and short nerves) has led me to everything I love the most.
Of my 38 years, I spent the first 23 of them living with pain and dysfunction, and the last 15 of them rehabilitating my body. Not only has this led me to a career I love, but it’s helped me to discover this freaky fountain of youth where at 38 I’m capable of so much more than I was at eight. It never ceases to amaze me.
Ponce de Leon, eat my dust!
2. The doctor who didn’t want to cut me open.
When I was 21 years old I was a total wreck. My jaw locked shut, I couldn’t turn my head to the right, and I couldn’t bear very much weight on my right leg. Enter Dr. Murad Padamsee, a TMJ specialist at the Tufts Craniofacial Pain Center. Most doctors would look at a person in that situation, and their history of pain and dysfunction, and almost immediately pull out the trusty bone saw. But Dr. Padamsee not only insisted we get my jaw back to normal function without surgery (he did so via creating a series of custom made splints and orthodontia), but he also directed me to find some good bodywork when my pain did not resolve as my jaw function returned.
3. Discovering this whole bodywork thing.
Having no idea what bodywork really meant, considering I wasn’t a car, I decided to do some research when Dr. Padamsee recommended it. That bodywork research led me to Rolfing®. After only one session, I could turn my head fully to the right and much of my baseline pain was relieved; I felt like I was floating out of the office. I had a series of Rolfing work from there which was the kind of angels singing, clouds parting experience that launched me into my life’s work.
Even with a jaw that opened and closed just like it was supposed to, and with loads of Rolfing sessions under my belt (and what felt like an entirely new body), I was still a bit of a movement dunce.
And boy howdy, I was never as terrified of anything quite like I was terrified of a yoga studio. The few times I had dared to enter a classroom, there would always be that inevitable moment where the teacher approached me with a furrowed brow after watching me move.
All it took was the slightest knitting together of the brows and I was instantly back in my ballet classroom at age six, where all the other girls were sitting serenely in full splits while I tried desperately just to fold forward enough to get my hands to my knees. Yeah, ballet didn’t last long, and I never thought yoga could either until I met Jonathan Fitzgordon.
Not only is Jonathan a total anatomy geek and a brilliant body mechanist, but he also has this very easy-breezy vibe. Not much can ruffle his feathers. Sure enough, my residual injury stuff didn’t get his brows drawing together. Not even a little.
And so I began to learn a whole new body vocabulary, and to discover with practice, my movement patterns could shift.
And I didn’t have to live in fear of yoga studios anymore!
5. The passing of the yoga torch.
Sure enough, the day came when I had to move away from Brooklyn, and therefore, away from Jonathan’s righteous teaching skills. I dabbled in yoga classes with a number of lovely teachers, but I didn’t find anyone who called me to really continue it as a serious practice until I fortuitously stumbled into a workshop led by Jill Miller.
Jill Miller’s Yoga Tune Up®, was the perfect chocolate in the peanut butter discovery of finding a way to combine my love of both Rolfing and yoga. It felt like discovering the holy grail of teaching people how to Rolf themselves, and is without a doubt my best self-care tool to date. With Yoga Tune Up, the pace of rehabbing my body has increased tremendously.
6. Who I get to be today.
On this beautiful fall Sunday, as I write this, I have already: taught a yoga class (not too shabby for someone who used to make every excuse possible to avoid the ring of hell yoga classrooms used to be for me); taught a therapy balls/self-massage class to a group of fab Crossfitters (not too shabby for someone who used to run panicked from athletes and gyms for fear they would judge my gimpy-ness); and half sprinted/half hiked a very demanding trail (not too shabby for someone who used to turn in doctor notes to get out of many gym classes).
Every day, I get to delight in the potential we all have to heal our bodies and to astound ourselves, and for that, I am marvelously, ridiculously, outrageously grateful.
Brooke Thomas is a Certified Rolfer® and Yoga Tune Up® teacher and the founder of www.somahappy.com, a website dedicated to helping people to feel less cranky and more happy in their bodies! She works with people in New Haven, CT where she is based, and also creates distance learning programs for those who aren’t local to her. When not writing, teaching, or Rolfing she can be found running around outside like an over-eager puppy dog, and occasionally baking vast quantities of cookies.~Editor: Jennifer Spesia