I am at a crossroads in my life, and as often happens at crossroads, I feel a bit of pain. Down one of three or four potential roads I might walk lies strange but exciting newness. Down another, loss, but with possibility. A third would require potentially painful growth. A fourth, complete uncertainty. None will be easy. All will require a stretch, and with stretching, we tend to hurt.
When something starts to hurt, we have a tendency to pull back. After all, hurt is something to avoid, right? But what about taking a yoga class? Don't you find yourself in poses that are, at once, completely liberating but hurt like the dickens? I know I do. It's tempting to stretch too far- to let your ego get caught up in "success," while you push yourself beyond safe limits and wind up with a torn hamstring. So how do you know where that limit lies? What's the difference between good stretch and bad stretch?
Wisdom of the Body
I've found that my body tends to know. There's a stretch that feels invigorating. It's a challenge, and stepping up to the plate feels fantastic when you achieve it. By stretching gently, you slowly surrender more deeply into the pose, freeing your mind and unleashing your spirit. But there's another type of stretch that just feels wrong. You tweak something, feel pain biting into you, and get a sense of dread about what's happening. One is to be celebrated. The other is best avoided.
How can you tell the difference? You have to listen to your body, mind, and spirit. When you're stretching, you know the difference between a good stretch and a bad one. It's when we ignore the messages that suffering happens.
Resting in Child's Pose
In my life, three of the possible roads feel like good stretches. One feels like a bad one. But I'm going to keep standing at the crossroads for a while, resting, rejuvenating, growing, and getting clarity about what lies ahead. I'm going to come out of that stretching yoga pose and rest into child's pose until I feel strong enough, limber enough, to keep stretching. And that's okay.
Stretching Out Of Our Comfort Zones
Some of you Pinkies in the Pink Posse forum may feel the same way. Maybe you're finding that being vulnerable on the forum is stretching you. Maybe another Pinkie says something to you that stings and stretches you. Maybe you don't feel met in just the way you might wish. Maybe you feel overstretched, like you've put too much of yourself out there. You might wonder if this is a bad stretch. And it could be- for you. Or it could be that liberating stretch that comes just before you are set free. Only you can know the difference, and you must honor where you are in your process.
It all comes back to being true to where you are. There is no right and wrong. Just like there is no right or wrong road at my intersection. My body just needs to feel which stretch feels like growth and which one feels like a pulled muscle.
Know what I mean, Pinkies? What about you? What stretches you?
Dr. Lissa Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, an author, a nationally-represented professional artist, and the founder of Owning Pink, an online community committed to building authentic community and empowering women to get- and keep- their "mojo". Owning Pink is all about owning all the facets of what makes you whole- your health, your sexuality, your spirituality, your creativity, your career, your relationships, the planet, and YOU. Dr. Rankin is currently redefining women's health at the Owning Pink Center, her practice in Mill Valley, California. She is the author of the forthcoming What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin's Press, September 2010).