“I guess you aren’t doing yoga for awhile,” I frequently hear.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Now is when I need yoga the most.
While a physical yoga practice eludes me for the time being, I would not have survived the hard times at the hospital and since my discharge if it weren’t for the other seven limbs of yoga, the ones we westerners often ignore when worrying about the right Lululemon outfit to wear or complaining about a class that didn’t leave us sweaty enough.
Not that I’m so highly evolved. I own a ridiculous number of expensive yoga pants. I have been known to pass judgement on group classes I like or don’t like and am often reluctant to try new instructors even though I am a new instructor. I choose sleep over meditation on cold mornings when it’s hard to get out of bed. Since shoulder surgery, I’ve had a relentless (yet obviously unachievable) urge to stand on my head. While I hate that I can’t walk/hop/scoot up or down the stairs, I’ve spent equal time despairing over the lost progress I had been making toward hanumanasana (otherwise known as the splits) before a sheet of ice sent me flying. Every bite of food irrationally represents a pound I worry I will have to lose when I get out of the wheelchair. I get angry and frustrated at my current limitations.
Yes, I have the woe is me moments. But my intention is to use my time on the DL to transcend the fixations with my physical body.
I’m still working out exactly how to achieve this…
In my better moments, I close my eyes. I breathe deeply. I direct that breath to the parts of the body that need love: ankle, shoulder, almighty/overworked left side. Inhale love. Exhale angst. When I teach, I constantly remind my students to let go of thoughts, tension, energy that doesn’t serve, but true release is easier said than done. These last few weeks, I’ve had to peel back the layers, protective sheaths that keep me from asking for help, showing vulnerability, accepting unsolicited offers of help, coming to terms with what I can and can’t do.
I have the semblance of a plan. I want to reread the Yamas and the Niyamas, the ethical guide to yoga. During yoga teacher training, a wise soul recommended picking one yama or niyama and dedicating ourselves fully toward it. I focused on practicing ahimsa —or, nonviolence. Now I recognize that what I need in my life is the hardest for me to contemplate achieving: ishvara pranidhana —surrender. I do not control the universe.
Whether I can do a headstand or a split is irrelevant. My right side body is down but the left side remains strong. I can breathe, think, love, and appreciate. Kitchen items are going to be out of place, but why? Because kind and generous caretakers prepare my every meal. I’m mostly confined to my house, but I get to avoid cold (icy) winter days. I feel alone deep inside, but nothing could be farther from the truth.
A yoga practice represent more than a series of poses on the mat. It’s a journey toward peace. I will bumble and fall (hopefully only figuratively) on the way to learning to let go. I’m ready to offer myself up to this time and experience.
In all these ways and more I can’t foresee, recovery from my injuries represents the hardest yoga I’ve ever “done.”