The Revealing Nature of Injury

In an effort to stay active during this COVID-19 lockdown I took up trying to run to supplement my yoga practice.  I’m lucky, I guess. I live in a place where I can do that while staying far away from others, over 20’ for the most part. 

I don’t like to run. It’s kind of miserable but I found an app that makes it bearable by letting me pretend that I’m helping during a zombie apocalypse, supports you with gentle workouts and doesn’t make you feel like you’re going to die, unless it’s from a zombie attack.

Three weeks ago I was finally starting to enjoy myself when I twisted my left ankle pretty badly. Eight days later I was out walking and the ankle was feeling ok. It was still swollen but pretty pain free so I started to trot again. I was feeling pretty good doing the intervals and on my last one, within the last 20 feet of my last running spurt I twisted the other ankle. This one was worse. I hobbled home, defeated and angry, locked myself in the bedroom and therapeutically screamed six or seven times, turned on the yoga class I had registered for but then just curled up on the floor and cried for 20 minutes. After that I made my way to the couch to self medicate with Bloody Marys and TV.

The screaming and crying, while precipitated by the prospect of being incapacitated by a stupid injury were really a reaction to the current situation. I miss going to the office, people are dying, I’m afraid that this is it, that humanity has met its Waterloo and I’m afraid of what the future holds for my 17 year old who is planning on starting college in the fall. It took a fall for me to face my fear and it wasn’t pretty.

All that was on Easter Sunday. On Monday I felt better, physically and mentally and I began to practice yoga truly modifying to accommodate the pain. I went through the week cursing my rotten luck and being frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t even feel good Adho Mukha Svanasana, then came Saturday.

In my Yoga Teacher Training we had been focusing on ascending and descending (Arohan and Awarohan) breath for a few weeks. This construct for me was initially limiting and confusing. Once practiced, it became informative and stimulating. The class for which I had registered that day focused heavily on this breath and in Parsvottanasana I became more interested in the feeling of the breath in this pose than whether or not my body would allow me greater flexion. From that moment in that practice my curiosity about each posture came from a place of breath placement that I’m not sure I had experienced before, ever. The feeling was unexpected and luxurious.

As yoga teachers we often say that if your breath catches or is constricted in a pose to back off and find a place where the breath can be free. We mean it, for ourselves and for our students. How often though, do we truly prioritize the breath over the Asana? We know we should but do we? This experience was different for me. The level of internal exploration was powerful, healing, wonderful and something I will explore for a while. At least while my ankles heal.

I have one gentleman who comes to class and isn’t happy if he can breathe. He tries to muscle his way into whatever Asana we’re doing, breath be damned. It kills me and the teacher in me can’t turn a blind eye, but it is his practice. I have faith too that one day he will discover what actually breathing can accomplish for him. When that day comes, we’ll rejoice together.

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