Rehabilitation of a Yogi: Introduction
April 5, 2011 § 6 Comments
Yoga teacher. Buddhist. Maniac with the twists.
I hurt my back several months ago. It is an injury that still bothers me. It happened in a yoga class. In a twisting lunge I pressed my hands together at the chest center and used my right elbow against the outside of my left knee to deepen the twist… Oooh, it felt good. I cranked it up another notch and then felt a pop on the right side of my low back.
Let me back up. I am a yoga teacher. And part of the practice of yoga is self-care. In my classes I say: find the middle way between pushing too hard and not pushing hard enough. You never want to hurt yourself as a result of your own yoga practice.
So damn, now did I let this happen to my body? That was the first thought. Don’t freak out, everything is gonna be fine, you’ll be fine. That was the second thought. At the excellent Dharma Mittra Yoga Center, I did not let on to the teacher that anything was wrong when I felt the twinge in my back. I completed the class and finally it was time for Savasana, Corpse Pose (the relaxation pose at the end of every yoga class). I wished I had a blanket to roll up and put under my knees. This helps to relieve tension from the lower back and is something I often recommend to my students. There wasn’t a blanket handy. Of course I could have asked the teacher for a blanket. I could have walked over and grabbed a blanket myself from the shelf. But I did neither. The fact is I failed to properly prioritize my comfort and physical well being. And this trend continued for the next several months.
Sometimes my back would hurt and I had to spend the day at home annoyed and frustrated with my lack of mobility. As soon as it felt better I went back to teaching and practicing yoga. I’ve been working on my Forearm Stand, Handstand, Headstand and Wheel. All these poses are quite difficult for me (and for many others) but I am determined to master them. To me these poses represent the physical (external) characteristics of what it means to be a “yoga teacher” or “good at yoga”.
You see – a yoga teacher is supposed to be able to do a Headstand easily, away from the wall, finding the balance and distributing the weight evenly among her head and forearms (or hands, depending on which variation of Headstand she chooses). A yoga teacher is also supposed to hop up easily into a Handstand and be able to balance in a Forearm Stand. That’s how it should be, right? At least it is in my mind. Or rather… in the content of my thoughts on the subject.
Is that how I teach yoga? No. Of course not. My attitude toward my students is always: Do what you can and Be where you are. I sometimes need to remind myself of my own mantra.
The benefit of a yoga practice is not in what sort of pretzel shape or wacky balance you can assume with the body, is what I say. The true benefit of a yoga practice is a friendship, a familiarity with yourself – your physical body, your emotions, and your thoughts.
Rehabilitation of a Yogi is the story of my quest to find contentment with reality and embrace self care. I battle the demons of Should, Must and Have To as I search for the truth, the Dharma of my relationship with self.