an open letter to my ankle

Dear Ankle:

First, let me start off my expressing my sincerest apologies for years and years (decades, if I’m being frank) of completely taking you for granted. “My feet hurt,” I may have complained now and then, but did I give you the respect you deserve? No. I cursed nicks in the shower over your difficult-to-shave bony protuberances that seemed to bleed forever. But did I ever consider what you, conduit to my feet, endured physically and emotionally?

Hindsight is 20/20. Now I see how cruelly I abused you with each pair of sky high heels, each precarious walk on an uneven sidewalk, each high intensity exercise I engaged in. And all without the smallest of thanks.

(Sorry and thank you for heavy ankle weights, four-inch heels, jumping jacks, marathons, boots that blistered, dull razors, careless bumps, and all other infractions.)

Like much in life, we don’t know how good we have something until we don’t have it anymore. It may seem shitty of me to find appreciation for you now that I can’t use you, but I offer my gratitude regardless. I love you, who will forever bear the screws and scars of my slip. I love you, even as you throb and swell and press against the tight boundaries of my cast. (I hope that means you’re healing.) And I promise to take better care of you when you are freed from plaster confinement.

A token of my affection: I’ve already given away two pairs of boots that must have felt like torture chambers to you.

As we move forward together, I want to conclude by letting you know how much I love standing on two feet and appreciate the role you play in my bipedalism.

Affectionately yours,

Chelsea

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on “doing” yoga

 

“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.”

Namaste.