Honoring a Wounded Yoga Body

03/23/2015 02:36 pm ET | Updated May 23, 2015

The cough had been present for a little over two weeks. It had begun to improve, then took a turn for the worse. I was awoken in the middle of the night, coughing, when a searing pain began in my left ribcage. The pain was so intense that I wondered if I'd just cracked a rib. A trip to the doctor the next day did not warrant cause for concern about the rib, so we focused on healing the cough.

The cough improved, but the rib did not. I kept showing up for my life, doing the things I love only slightly smaller and slower in movement. Yoga, however, was beyond challenging; humbling and horrifying to try to move into an asana I know intimately only to be stopped short or have to come out of it because of the pain.

I have had to learn how to be present, literally, in each and every moment, checking in constantly to see where my body will allow me to move. This is a gift, unfortunately not wrapped in a beautiful Tiffany blue with the white satin bow. Rather than the usually taking for granted that I can and do move just as my brain directs my body, my body is now directing my brain, often through breath-stealing pain, when I don't listen and honor where it is in the moment.

None of this could have been possible ten years ago. I wasn't in touch with my body. I didn't know how to listen. This is a common issue -- few people know how to listen to their body and truth be told, many simply don't want to listen to their body. We run from it, ignore it, try to live up in the head. We abuse our bodies and expect them to work efficiently and effectively, wondering what's wrong when they don't.

Stepping onto the yoga mat gives us an opportunity to listen. Much like couple therapy, the head and the body have to show up and listen to each other. As a yoga teacher, I can watch the resistance as people start the process. It takes awhile to transform the relationship, for some people years. This is especially true if a person has experienced trauma and the body has become "the enemy."

As curiosity and compassion deepen the relationship with the body, the sense of feeling good, maybe even peaceful, is what seals the deal for many to return to the mat time and time again. But what happens when the yoga doesn't feel good, such as when the body is wounded?

One of two things happen, people avoid it entirely or you show up and explore with kindness, love, and deep compassion. The later is where I have been practicing. What I find is there are deeply rooted emotions ready to bubble up to the surface for release. I admittedly am not often kind and compassionate to myself, so this is a new experience of self-care and self-love. It is tender and gentle, requiring a depth of patience of which I am unfamiliar.

Perhaps my body was trying to wake me up to more than an annoying cough. Perhaps this injury is more about how I show up with myself. Even further, it will help me teacher others how to show up when their woundedness -- physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Because we all will carry wounds at some point in our life. Having someone who can hold space and gently remind us of how to heal is a gift beyond measure.

Wendy Reese is a lifestyle strategist who specializes in whole being, author, host of The Whole Being Zone and yoga teacher with 13 years of teaching experience. If you are ready to cut through the limitations that hold you back from being whole, try Wendy's complimentary 7 day lifestyle detox course at Get regular Wendy Wisdom (and inspiration) on Twitter and Instagram @wholebeinginc