Wounded Warrior: Surviving The First Week Of A Yoga Injury
Shortly after I have decided to take my practice up a notch, five times a week instead of four, I managed to hurt myself bad enough in the left pectoral muscle that I had to cancel all my classes. So much for taking it to the next level. Googling “yoga injury” only turned up information about how yoga can help heal injuries, not so much how to heal injuries caused by yoga. Googling “pectoral injury”, I was apprised of the fact that this type of injury is rare and happens mainly to male weightlifters. Seriously? I felt mildly betrayed. By Google, by yoga, by my own body.
Asana is out. “Do pranayama instead :)”, texted a yoga-teacher friend whom I turned to in desperation for advice. The voice at the back of my mind concurred. There ARE eight limbs of yoga after all. Somehow it had to take an injury to force me to consider the others. My ego reared its very big and very ugly head. I wanted to get back on the mat, give myself an ass-kicking workout, and have something to show for it. But I also know all along, that is NOT yoga. Suitably chastened by the yoga gods, I cleared my perpetually sinus-blocked left nostril and reluctantly commenced a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing.
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Day 1. “Injury teaches us about acceptance”
Kino Macgregor’s sage words did not make very much sense to me. So I am supposed to just accept my state of utter infirmity and be ok with it? Clearly I have a long way to go towards enlightenment. I was suffering and I just wanted it to go away. Stat (snaps fingers impatiently). Breathing was painful and getting out of bed required some very elaborate twisting and turning. I turned to my arsenal of essential oils. Lavender, lemongrass, frankincense, peppermint. I poured them on and into myself. I smelled like a walking incense stick.
Day 2. This is all very bleak
More pain, more pranayama, more essential oils. I reiki-ed myself and hoped that I had paid enough attention in my Usui Level 2 class for it to be actually working. Another day of being an invalid.
Day 3. Juice
Started thinking what I can eat to aid in muscle recovery. This time Google did not disappoint. Armed with a renewed sense of mission, I headed out to get a couple of fruits and vegetables to juice. In my next reincarnation as a Stepford wife, I have decided I MUST get one those high-end slow juicers that cost as much as a refridgerator. In this life however, I make do with a dusty food processer stashed away high up on my shelf. Not exactly the best way to extract the most goodness out of them. A thick fibrous foam of blitzed carrots, celery and bananas is what I got. This, I guzzled down, aided by the imagination of them zinging through my bloodstream, repairing my cells and tissues.
Day 4. Feebly I Flow
Executed my first pathetic vinyasa in days. This consists of a few cat and cow stretches, followed by a downward facing dog, cobra, and then child’s pose. Things are looking up.
Day 5. Acupuncture
Sadistically, I have always wanted to try it but for lack of a good reason. After all, I do have a penchant for ancient ‘best practices’. So I called the acupuncturist and snagged a slot. On the treatment bed, my cool demeanour morphed instantly to hysterical panic as he got ready to prick me. Turned out, it didn’t hurt at all. What continued to hurt though is my injury. I started to doubt what six needles finer than a strand of hair can do for me.
Day 6. “Active People Get Injured. Inactive People Get Disease”
Pep talk from yet another celebrity yoga teacher, Kathryn Budig. Now, not only did this one make more sense to my asana-deprived brain, it actually made me feel GOOD about being injured. A yoga injury can be a lonely place indeed. At this point, anger towards my body has changed to guilt. “It’s your body’s way of saying you must slow down.” True. Except I didn’t just slow down. I felt like I hit a brick wall while traveling at 120mph.
Encouraged, I acquainted myself with every article written about her injury, every little detail about her left rotator cuff. My initial reaction upon learning that she took a month to recuperate was ‘oh god, I thought this can be fixed in a week’. Yet as I read on, something shifted. “I became grateful for yoga in a different way. Replacing all vinyasa with simple yin and long walks made me thankful for its patience… for the reassurance that it would be right there waiting for me whenever I was ready to return.”
Right there waiting for me whenever I am ready. It took me 32 years of my life to find yoga. And it has been waiting there for me. Until the time was right. What is a month (or two) of recuperation? Why grudge my body the time it needs to rest and rebuild itself?
I assembled whatever plump pillows and cushions I could find around the house and looked up some yin yoga tips on Youtube and Yogajournal.com. Freshly inspired, I settled into Viparita Karani or legs-up-the-wall pose. Another yoga first for me. I am seriously starting to think that my muscle tear happened for a reason. Om.
Day 7. Back to Basics
‘“Die to the ego” and go for a basic class’, I told myself. I have come full circle to Kino Macgregor’s advice about acceptance. Frankly, with a body like hers, that kind of strength and flexibility, there is no NEED for an ego anyway. So, exactly a week after my last disastrous class, I returned to a studio mat, brushing shoulders and feet with newbies and beginners. Eschewing all chaturangas and up dogs, being excruciatingly aware of every movement and sensation of pain, I survived. I wanted it to be a test, of where I’m at physically, and more importantly of my ego.
I cannot deny that as much as I can let go and accept my limitations, I still felt some envy and resentment looking at chirpy 20-something-year-olds high-five each other when the instructor announced that we were gonna try inversions. Overall, I gave my ego’s performance a decent conduct score. But maybe even that is somewhat egoistical.
* * *
So, here I am, two months after my injury. I have recovered almost all my fucntioning. My left pecs will periodically remind me to slow down, like a wise and fractious child when I push her too hard.Yoga teaches us that whereever we are now is perfect. Am I happy I got injured? No not really. Am I grateful? Yes maybe. Am I humbled? Most definitely. It was the perfect lesson.
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