There is a fine line we skate between listening to our body and pushing the edge in the name of growth. I have certainly made my share of mistakes in my years of marathon training, but yoga is fairly new to me. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I am hitting a few obstacles as I attempt to step up my yogic game. Hello Screaming SI Joint, Wonky Hip, and Tender Sacrotuberous Ligament! OUCH! But it’s hard not ask, “what the heck…am I doing?” and “why?”
It’s more than my ashtanga practice, although I am currently wondering to what extent the heavy forward folding (spinal flexion) of the primary series has led to my repeat experience of SI joint separation/sprain. I’ve been here before; it’s not all ashtanga. And I’d love to believe that the ashtanga method could help me build strength in my low back, hip, sacroiliac joint, and all the ligaments that keep that joint functioning properly. I’m just not sure if now is the time.
Bigger than what type of yoga I practice is whether or not my path to teach is right…or whether the timing is. This injury and, more specifically, the actions that made it so extensive point out the fact that I have much more to learn about myself, the vulnerabilities of my body, in addition to the practice. Maybe now is the time to simply focus on strengthening my own practice, my body, and my understanding. Maybe I need to rethink all the rest.
I am not exactly thinking clearly these days.
You know how when you are hurting,
And it feels like you need to stretch an area of your body…
Because it’s really, really, REALLY TIGHT?
Well, that was what I had been feeling these past many weeks.
I was stretching, and stretching, and stretching…
And still it felt like I was getting worse and worse and worse.
Tighter and tighter and TIGHTER!
Which, of course, comes with PAIN.
Apparently, the tightening was my body’s way of protecting me.
It was trying to help keep me stabilized by tightening.
And when I would stretch it out,
I’d become more unstable, more in pain,
and my body would tighten even more to try to help return to stabilization.
It just couldn’t do anymore.
My ligaments, like over stretched rubber bands, have been rendered useless.
And *I* did that to myself.
Over the weekend I attended a workshop on hands-on adjustments in the standing poses from the ashtanga primary series taught by my amazing Ashtanga Teacher, Erika Abrahamian. It was a workshop geared towards yoga instructors but was also made available to students. The front end portion discussed the relationship between student and teacher and highlighted the importance of the communication being a two-way process.
Our instructor advised the teachers in the room to use all of his/her senses to be in tuned to the student. “If one is not fully present,” she advised, “injuries can happen.” Even if the teacher is fully present, injuries can still happen. Our instructor stressed the importance for students to let the teacher know when this does occur.
This last point, of course, made me think about my recent right sided back pain following a hands-on-adjustment (also known as an assist) in mysore. I did not report this injury to the teacher. She found out by reading my blog. Honestly, I put the blame on myself, for not keeping up with my practice, rather than her. So I didn’t feel it was important to tell her about it. After I returned to mysore, I saw how important this information is to both student and teacher. Her new found awareness of my SI joint instability, scoliosis, and year-long battle with back pain and sciatica has changed how she assists me in my practice. It’s been good — especially since my practice has taken a crazy dive bomb.
It was another tough practice: a humbling, difficult, painful sort of practice.
Coming out of savasana, I roll onto my side and dedicate the benefits of my practice to my son. He’s been on my mind a lot lately. As he prepares for another trip overseas which will potentially put him into danger far beyond the farthest extent of my imagination. Although I try not to think of all of the horrible ways (physical, mental, spiritual) he could be affected, I am currently struggling to remain positive in this regard. Although I know I must stay positive, the process is difficult at best.
As I lay here, I reflect on the difficulties that I bumped up against in today’s practice and, as I offer up the benefits to my son, pray that somehow my ability to stay the course, and to not let the tearful moments defeat me will help my son do the same.
With my eyes still closed, I push up to seated with my hands in front of my heart in anjali mudra. I give thanks and pray for strength.
There’s a reason we practice in the Mysore room, rather than at home. At home, the distractions continue to bombard you. They bling, and ring, and knock on your door – demanding you attend to THEM and NOT your practice. It throws you off. After the 3rd or 4th call for your attention, you step off your mat to see what’s up. Maybe you look but decide not to respond. It matters not; the message sits in your head and gets in the way of your focus.
I’ve come to learn that I’m not that strong in my resistance to the pulling forces. I text back in attempt to close the loop. The mere fact that I have put the distraction ahead of my practice invites the onslaught of thoughts to flood my consciousness with idle chatter. And I am LOST.
This is why I made myself go to Mysore instead of practicing at home. Because textasana is not part of the primary series. Nor are any of the other distractions that pull me from my mat on a regular basis.
And that, dear friends, is a beautiful thing.
As were the incoming text messages that were waiting for me when I finished my practice.