This re injury has been a brilliant wake-up call for me. A great big, “Hello, Stupid. Stop what you’re doing and try something else.” Last June, when I injured my back for the first time (well, not the first time – this has been a chronic problem that is just becoming more virulent), my goal was so slowly get better, and use the expertise of a physical therapist along with my yoga practice to get better so that I could get back to all the activities I was doing before I got hurt. I see now that is not the goal. Instead, the goal is to learn to listen to my body, really listen, to know when it is stressed, and to use modalities other than physical movement to release stress stored in the body.
When I injured myself last June, I immediately sought the help of others outside of me. I went to a sports med doctor who gave me lots of drugs – two weeks later, hopped up on muscles relaxers and unaware of the extent of the injury, I re-injured trying yoga again. I went to a chiropractor, who told me I was in complete alignment but kept asking me to come in until she suggested a massage instead. I went to the a masseur, who was too expensive but such a good healer that the next day I vomited out all the toxins she released. I went back to a different sports med doctor who finally sent me to a physical therapist who knew a lot about anatomy and what my anatomical problem was, and helped me to relieve the pain that way.
Unfortunately, we yogis know that there is more to pain than just the physical body. Every physical pain in the body has an underlying spiritual message. You can think of pain as the body’s way of screaming at you. I say screaming because, undoubtedly, the body has given you many signs of distress prior that have been ignored.
Last Thursday when I re injured myself, I was very stressed. Works was stressful, as were things at home, as were all problems I was trying to solve for my friends. All this was taking a toll on my body. All of this in the same week that I was trying to introduce a very physically stressful activity – running – back into my routine. The morning of my run, I thought to myself, “I need to relieve this stress. I need to sit down and meditate. I need to get this stress out of my body.” But I didn’t do it. Instead, I did what I always do, which is focus on the physical – take the jog, or that intense asana practice, or that long walk with the dog. All of those things are considered healthy releases for stress, and all are in line with the externally and body focused culture that we live in.
So I got sick, hurt my back, and spent a day crying and thinking “why, why, why.” Well, why indeed. Because I failed to listen. And if I fail to see the lesson again, then I’ve really failed. But I’m afraid of changing. I’m afraid of taking on a new routine that isn’t linked to disciplining my body. Gates says, “Aparigraha (non hoarding or non attachment) is about recognizing our fears and letting them go. We hold on to that which is not really ours in the first place because we are afraid. We hold on to outworn beliefs because we are afraid. We are willing to believe that something outside ourselves will make us whole because we are afraid. Being afraid does not make us right, it only makes us unhappy.”
And so I’m changing my goal. A year of yoga was appealing to me because it was physically demanding. But I have been told by my body time and time again that “demanding” is not what it needs right now, especially a practice of vinyasa or Astanga. I’ve realized that, while I love love love Astanga yoga, it is not as much about listening to the body as it is asking the body to perform more and more difficult tasks. While this is not a bad thing in and of itself, it’s just not the thing I need to focus on each day for a year.
I will get back to yoga as much as possible when I’m healed. But in the meantime, I’m committing to a daily practice of meditation to drain stress from my system and check in with myself. I know that this will work, because it does work for me. I’ve just not committed to it because it’s not physical. Yesterday, I meditated on my own and then swapped aura healings with a friend. The results were incredible. I was suffering from very swollen throat glands and within an hour after the healing, which basically is just assistance in noticing and draining energy and stress from the body, my throat was back to normal. It’s stayed that way. My back feels better, too. I am confident that this is the path for me right now. Daily meditation sprinkled with conscious, healthy yoga workouts.
And, as always, I’ll keep you posted.