Several weeks ago I started doing yoga for my back. It was bothering me that my range of motion was impeded. Stretches that had been helpful for years brought real discomfort and so I'd stopped doing them; it wasn't a solution as much as a strategic denial of something that needed to be dealt with.

When a friend volunteered her copy of yoga for back care, I thought I would take the plunge and see if there was something I could do to open up my lower back. The first morning I made it about a third of the way through the video before I reached a position that stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn't move on without doing something else.

The something else seems to be working on some muscles in my lower back that have developed deep knots (sometimes called trigger points). Through massage and the Acuballs I mentioned previously, I am making progress, flowing more easily now through the yoga positions, feeling the tension in my back beginning to release, allowing the sense of breath to flow freely through my spine. In the process I am strengthening and elongating my muscles so that they will be able to support my core.

Focusing on freedom and flexibility in my body right now is key, especially as I'm solidly in midlife. I'm just hitting my stride, and would like to be healthy for at least the next thirty years(!) so I'm taking time to notice what is going on in my body, especially becoming aware of these trigger points that not only cause pain, but also limit my range of motion.

But trigger points don't only exist in the physical realm. They are also common in our emotional selves. Emotional trigger points come to our attention when we can't be open to the people or situations around us.  Instead of moving with competence and grace, we find ourselves tensing up, our heartrate increases, and confidence oozes away. Rather than extending compassion, our face begins to harden, and we put on a false persona, or withdraw altogether.

Noticing emotional trigger points is the first step toward dissolving them. We need to slow down and try to accurately name what is causing our discomfort. Are we angry, afraid, insecure, anxious? Are we stressed by the situation, or the person? Is this a reoccuring problem, or are we walking into new territory?

It's a funny thing. When we stop to notice what is going on, and honestly desire to move beyond the pain and dis-ease, what we need will often come to us. When I needed to work on my back, my friend had already pulled together a box of goodies chosen specifically for back care issues. It's true in other realms as well. We realize we're angry and a friend gives us a book on forgiveness; we struggle with insecurities and a colleague mentions a good therapist; we feel a lack of passion and a sermon speaks directly to our longings.

We are meant to live freely and flexibly, connecting deeply with our world. To choose joy means that we take steps towards attaining that freedom, opening ourselves to love flowing in and through us. And when we feel that love being restricted, it's important that we pay attention to the cause, probe the block, and commit to understanding why it's there, even it if means slowing down to heal.