Just before Christmas last year I tripped over an ottoman in my living room and tore the rotator cuff on my left shoulder. I tried to muddle through with home remedies, but was finally forced to seek medical attention. My doctor diagnosed the severity of the injury and prescribed anti-inflammatory meds, pain pills and physical therapy.
The sessions with the therapist were painful and I usually went home with an ice pack on my shoulder, but gradually I regained the use of my arm. I was dismayed when the therapist released me to a regimen of home exercises with the admonition that, if I was very faithful with the exercises, I should expect to be about 80% recovered in nine months! That was my first indication that I was in this for the long haul.
I stuck with the exercises and my shoulder improved, very gradually. Somewhere around August my progress stalled. I became very discouraged.
I am working on my second novel [the sequel to “Hollow” by J.B. Hawker, available for Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.com] and one of the main characters uses yoga to keep her body strong and supple. I needed to research the yoga experience so I downloaded a beginner’s yoga app for my iPad.
Doing the 20 minute routine was awkward. Many of the poses were uncomfortable for me and I felt clumsy attempting them. The next day the muscles and tendons I had stretched were sore and tender. I did the exercises every other night for the first week and am now up to five nights a week. I’m still not very good and the “corpse pose” (lying completely relaxed on my back) remains my favorite, but I am sticking with it because of a totally unexpected bonus: these poses are healing my shoulder. I noticed the change that first week and continue to see constant improvement. While I had plateaued with the prescribed physical therapy exercises, the yoga was getting me back on track.
I don’t claim that there was anything wrong with my physical therapy routine or that yoga has some special healing capacity. I believe I may not have been giving the previous routine my best effort. It had become too “routine”. The unfamiliar yoga poses required a bit more effort and concentration. I am more engaged, so I’m getting better results.
I think it is the same for our spiritual exercises and routines. We can fall into a rut doing the same things in the same ways. Perhaps we have a set pattern to our daily devotions and prayers, or maybe we have attended the same Sunday school class or Bible study for years. Maybe our small group ministry has lost its focus and we are just going through the motions.
It may be time to shake things up a little and to try something new that requires focus and concentration. Don’t be afraid if you feel awkward and clumsy, at first. This is not about doing something you are already good at. It is about stretching yourself, healing and growth.
Try becoming fully engaged in your spiritual exercises and you may be blessed in unexpected ways.