Careful

One of my teachers seems to me to be indomitable. I don’t know her well personally, but from what she shares publicly I know she’s been through a bunch of sh*t. Most recently she underwent pretty serious surgery and from a distance I followed her steps towards healing and mobility with a sense of awe. How she handles fear and setbacks, how she gets right back at it, her amazing sense of curiosity about what she can and can’t do, and flexibility in what her practice will look like.

I’ve been thinking of her these past few days, as I figure out what is best for my hurt shoulder and thigh from a recent fall. Although the hospital doctor said to rest and use a sling I don’t think total immobility is what’s needed. And the rest of my body sure needs to move! I feel feel stiff all over, partly through sudden cessation of asana practice, but also because I’m curled up sleeping a lot since my body seems to need this, and because I’ve been holding myself really tensely, braced quite literally against the pain and against the fear of pain.

I’m tackling the fear. I’m exploring what movement I have (rather than fretting about what I don’t have) and I’m celebrating how it changes daily, almost hourly. What magic healing powers I have! For the first 48 hours I just measured my (in)ability to perform essential everyday activities: washing, dressing, eating — each of these broad categories involving a host of impossibly fine motor skills to fulfil various intimate needs. I don’t think I need to spell it all out 😉 Now that I’m feeling a bit less vulnerable overall I can turn to my asana practice and explore what the possibilities are to keep the rest of my body moving and to see how I might support my bruised thigh and shoulder healing.

And in some ways this is my best practice ever. There’s no place for ego or striving. I must move deliberately from a place of grounded stability. The breath determines how fast and how far I can go physically and offers me a soft place to return to at the close of my practice. The bruised quad has responded quickly to some stretching and is just a little sore now. The shoulder still produces intense pain if I accidentally over-tax it but it feels good to increase the mobility a little in the general area and free things up as much as possible. Since I still can’t lift my arm because of both lack of power and acute pain, I practise many asanas with my hands in Anjali mudra, a position which naturally offers stability to the shoulder and comfort to my fretting mind.

From these small practices of exploration balanced with self-care, I begin to perceive what resources I have in my nature and in my training and in all that I am learning from my teachers. The one who tells me to ‘stand in my power’ and the one who advises me to learn to use soft, warm blankets and scents to nurture and lift my spirits — these teachers who seem to me to represent the balance of sthira and sukha both inform how I can heal myself. Today and every day.

Off the mat it’s not really the weather for warm blankets and scented candles, despite the recent bad weather. The so-called ‘hurricane’ has passed now and I can be out and about again after the wind and heavy rain. I’ve been taking some little beach walks, enjoying all the sensory gifts — the scent of the salty sea, the feeling of the wind whipping through my hair, the sound of the surf as it’s still quite rough, and the feeling of the sand between my toes. The beach is no longer the headstanding playground I wanted, but it’s still an amazing place to appreciate my body, my self, and my being in the world. And that’s yoga too.

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