Wednesday, February 16, 2011

To Your Health

I confess, I sat down at my computer this morning with absolutely no clue what I should write about.  I have a couple of ideas, but none that can really blossom into an interesting discussion or question or even a bit of a pondering.  I tend to write about things I've been thinking about, practicing, or an article that's sparked my interest.  This past week?  I've been sick.  Really, really sick.  Sick as a dog.  I tried very hard to resist writing a blog about "the yoga of being sick," because I feel like I do that after every time I've been sick, but alas...the brain will write what the brain wants to write.

This past Valentine's Day weekend was spent much like last year's Valentine's Day weekend - with me completely and utterly unwell.  I had a couple false alarms of feeling better, but for the most part I was a goner from Thursday night up until yesterday.  Nothing makes you thankful for the teeny tiny little things that make up your health like losing it.

The littlest of things, like walking at a fast pace or truly craving and savoring a rich, delicious meal can become impossible when you're sick.  It's so fascinating that the one thing we lose by being generally healthy people in our society is the acknowledgment and gratitude of what the old toast, "To your health!" really means.  How precious, tenuous and absolutely not guaranteed it is.

I'm sure a good percentage of the folks reading this (you precious few!) are rolling their eyes a bit - of course good health is precious - and of course we take it for granted!  I think it's something you learn with age, or if you struggle with illness or chronic health disease.  However, when you're in good health - it's amazing how quickly the memory fades of what it's like not to have it.

When I was younger, I was sick all the time.  Right from the beginning, I was an unbelievably colicky baby.  I suffered from severe allergies, ear infections, frequent flus, tonsillitis, various minor surgeries on my feet once I started doing pointe...I could write an entire entry on my health history.  Once I hit high school, however, I started to equalize into what I'm assuming is the health of the average American person.

Now that I'm the healthiest I've been in my life, getting sick is always kind of a shock to me.  I'm 26, I eat fairly well (amazingly well compared to how I used to eat), I work out and do yoga religiously (ha), I very jealously guard my sleep, and I do my best not to let life's stressors make me sick.  It's always a shock both in wondering how on earth perfectly healthy me could possibly get sick, and because I think I've forgotten how it feels to just be knocked flat.

My life and livelihood these days depends on my body.  My healthy, fully-functional body.  Being sick has become kind of a terrifying notion.  I'm not just sitting at a desk where you can fight through a cold.  I'm touching people, I'm interacting with small children, I'm running around everywhere, whether it's the city or just the Karma Kids yoga studio.

Being sick helps me to practice ahimsa, the yogic yama meaning non-harming.  Even though I do sometimes push myself beyond my limits, my body always has a way of holding up a big red stop sign and forcing me to listen.  You gain nothing by pushing yourself too far and only extend the time it will take for you to be reunited with your strongest, healthiest self again. 

Being sick is an amazing reminder to have not just gratitude, but respect and reverence for your health.  When it returns, of course.  And when it does, it really pays to slow down and notice the little things that your good health is enabling you to do.  Running to catch the train, lifting something with ease, going to a party, savoring a great glass of wine...It's a beautiful way to find joy and gratitude for each and every healthy day you have.  No matter if the day is good or bad - your health truly does deserve a toast.

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