Reflection of The Camino de Santiago Part 1

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For ten days, my lab partner and I embarked on a spiritual pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago. Before heading to Spain, my partner and I had been researching the relationship between injury and spirituality with native Spanish pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago with Professor Harris as our advisor (apart of the Molecular & Cardiovascular Physiology Lab). At the end of the semester we found our results to be insignificant due to our sample size being too small. Through the help of William and Mary’s Student Research Grant, the Reves Center, and the Charles Center, we had the amazing opportunity to participate in the pilgrimage ourselves. This first hand experience not only helped us gain more data, but also helped us understand how this physical and spiritual experience relates to the mind and body dynamic. 

As “holistic medicine” has increasingly become apart of today’s vocabulary when it comes to health and wellness, it has always been something that has interested me as a Kinesiology major. This is why I was excited to be apart of this research to take a deeper look into the mind-body dynamic while on the Camino.

There are several different routes (or Caminos), of varying taxing terrain that span across Europe, all ending in Santiago. Today, the pilgrimage takes on a wide demographic of different nationalities, religions, ages, and genders. Many people from across the globe come to join the pilgrimage for several reasons whether that be for religious, personal growth, or moment of transition in someone’s life, etc. It seemed the Camino offered pilgrims a space of clarity, focus, peace, joy, or healing. What was equally amazing was witnessing the support and love that comes from the Camino community. If anyone showed symptoms of pain or injury, practically everyone would stop to help in any way. 

What we observed and learned on the Camino was that the mind and body are very much connected, but how does this connect to our research? What does this say about how the pilgrim  prevents, accumulates, and copes with injury over the duration of the pilgrimage? From my observations it seemed as though the pilgrims that were more comfortable in outdoor spaces or already familiar with the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage showed less signs of injury. Instead of focusing on a person’s spirituality, our research could perhaps look more into the level of comfort and support the pilgrim feels. In other words, those who associated a positive healing experience to the pilgrimage, rather than viewing it as painful sacrifice, may have suffered less injuries (I give an example of this in my second blog post). However, once the data is organized and analyzed, will we be able to come to a more solid conclusion about our study of spirituality and injury on the Camino.