I played varsity basketball in high school. I was not even close to being a star player, but I cherished the camaraderie of my teammates and enjoyed every practice and game to the fullest. In a game during my sophomore year, I sustained a severe shoulder dislocation, which eventually lead to major surgery. Surgery was successful, and I’ve lived with limited range of motion but thankfully, no real problems. In fact, I have been able to make teaching Pilates my livelihood for 17 years- so return on investment on that 1986 surgery was pretty darn good. However, recently my old shoulder injury is coming back to haunt me. For the past year, I have not been able to do normal activities like brush my hair or get a glass out of the cupboard without pain. My doctor said that most old joint injuries become problematic decades later. Knowing this, would I have forgone my high school basketball experience to have a healthy shoulder at mid life? Like Tim Green, I really don’t have a clear answer yes or no.

This question hit me head on last year at a our annual Pilates continuing education workshop. This "invitation only" workshop is an treasured opportunity to work with one of the most highly esteemed master instructors. All of the attendees bring their A game to perform as if they were performing for Joseph Pilates himself. Well not only did I not have my A game, but I had no game at all because my shoulder wouldn’t allow me to do the simplest of exercises. So I stood and watched as all the other instructors performed the advance work gracefully and impressively. I felt defeated. I felt a loss of identity. To make matters worse, someone who didn’t know me and certainly didn’t know the extent of my shoulder injury, insinuated to me that I was wimping out by not joining in on the exercises. Really? Actually, I didn’t voluntarily take myself out of the game like a wimp- my body took me out. I left feeling old, defective and in decline.

So back to the question at hand- at what point should we take ourselves out of the game? Do we play it safe from the beginning or do we push ourselves to the breaking point? Perhaps the answer is neither. Perhaps we actually have the tools to develop a inner knowing to hear the more subtle whispers our body gives us so we can participate smartly?

Feeling broken down physically and mentally after the workshop, I went to see my acupuncturist, Dr. Li, who, by the way, is the real deal. There is something so old and wise yet so young and vibrant about Dr. Li that I can’t tell if he is 40 or 80 years old. He is like a Chinese Yoda- in his ultra serene presence you get a nervous sense that he’s so vibrationally attuned that he might be reading your every thought. His peaceful presence made me acutely aware of the angst I was carrying around. He spoke in very soft broken English about how anxiety tightens the body and inhibits it from working properly, which then creates a vicious cycle of even more anxiety. I went to him to treat my shoulder, but the words that he ever so softly repeated 3 times to me, “let it go” told me that he was treating something a lot deeper than just a rotator cuff.

After my acupuncture experience, I realized that maybe it was time to try something that would seem very radical in today’s culture- to relax and release. I developed the knowing that it was time to stop pushing, efforting and trying to “fix” the shoulder. I focused on more kinder and gentler physical work such as acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, ortho-bionomy body work, meditation, and massage. I studied fascial release techniques found in the Egoscue method and restorative yoga. I also found some very helpful information from the “TB12 Method,” which is the method that Tom Brady uses to keep his muscles “pliable.” The TB12 Method stresses that while muscle strength can be important to athletic performance, muscle “pliability” is the key to longevity.

After almost a year of practicing “relax and release,” I am definitely pain free and my range of motion is improving by leaps and bounds. Not only can I brush my hair and put away the dishes with ease, but I am getting my Pilates back! Now that my injury is not so acute, Pilates will be a great tool to safely restore strength and efficiency to my shoulder.

I credit courage, patience and gratitude to my slow healing. It takes a long time to, as Dr. Li suggested, “let it go.” But, being grateful for what your body can do rather than fixating on it’s limitations can be a huge factor in speeding up the process. I have a unwavering belief that the body wants to find its optimal alignment. Sometimes we need to “let it go” and let the body do its work.

Our society is conditioned to find “the answer” as if it were that simple. When it comes to the body, a complex system of tissues and divine energy, I fervently believe there is not just one “answer.” I certainly don’t know if there is an “answer” for ALS or if forgoing a successful football career was the “answer” for Tim Green. I don’t know if I’d be better off today if I hadn’t played high school basketball. But, I do know that I’ve learned so much about the body and its ability to heal through my own stillness that I can better help my clients with their injuries. I do know that Pilates and other exercise are so important to health and longevity but also that an injury is an injury. From my healing experience, I am now better equipped to know when to effort and when to “let it go.”