Yoga Setback: How Failure Taught Me a Lesson
I first started practicing yoga with my mom in our living room.
However, I first fell in love with yoga at a small-town studio, after watching a class of super-bendy yogis seamlessly flow from one pose to the next, as if their breath carried them through a never-breaking cycle.
I wanted to be like them, from that moment on. My passion – or so I thought – was born.
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My “No Pain, No Gain” Mantra
Right from the start, I wanted it all.
I wanted the endurance, the strength, the flexibility, and the courage. I was never an athletic person, but with yoga, I had the means to finally be. With it, I adopted the mantra of “no pain, no gain,” with which I hoped I could propel myself to the next level, the next asana (pose), and essentially, to the highest point where I could reap my reward.
I just had to practice, at every cost.
I also wanted bragging rights. The looks I gave to my flexible counterparts in class were the same looks I desperately wanted in my direction. Being known as an avid bookworm my entire life, I saw yoga as an alternate direction in which I could find the boost for my shaky self-esteem.
I didn’t know it at the time, but a painful lesson was waiting to prove just how much I relied on outward approval and recognition.
An Injury That Initiated a Change
When the fundamental poses stopped challenging me physically, I moved on. I became obsessed with pushing the limits: Headstand, Crow, Split, and anything in-between that would wrap me up in the craziest pose possible.
I never bothered with modifications or props – they were crutches for people who couldn’t do it. I could.
I wore myself out, stayed up for hours practicing, watched endless videos, and criticized myself at the end of the day when I couldn’t get closer to my goal. I was exhausted, angry, hurt, and spinning in circles – circles that I had created.
In 2012, in my grandmother’s living room (I guess that’s a recurring setting), I kicked up into Headstand at the wall with no prior warm up (or patience, for that matter). As the weight came bearing down on my poorly-supported arms, my legs slid off the wall, causing me to painfully tip and crash to the ground.
The fall caused my neck to jerk out of alignment, and because I wasn’t properly supported, my neck took the brunt of the entire weight of my body.
The pain was incomprehensible. My body seemed to recoil into itself to keep it from further harm, and I could do nothing more than lay on the ground until the pain subsided. My ego was hurt, but my body was shaken to the core.
While I was able to fully recuperate from the accident, the fall bluntly forced me to take a giant step back and re-examine my yoga practice and intentions. I felt like I had failed, but the insight I soon gained shifted my practice – and life – for the better.
The moment I stopped viewing my yoga practice as a road towards a destination was the moment my approach changed significantly. My time on the mat was no longer defined by how far I could take my body, but how fully I could participate in my current, present state.
Yoga became whole-heartedly a journey in and of itself, with no end goal or rewards to reap, as I had so long ago hoped it would be.
For the first time in my life, I felt I had a purpose – to be. With every asana, my body recovered from years of stress and selfish abuse, and my mind de-cluttered from the vain hopes of achieving perfection.
Instead, I fell in love with my own divine spirit and offered a voice to a heart that had been silenced for too long.
What that fall really taught me was the importance of being present. I used to fly through my day, never heeding the warning signs that my body was desperately showing. I kicked up into that Headstand thinking only of the end result, and never taking the time to recognize the steps needed to reach the climax.
It was a rude and painful awakening, but I’m glad it happened.
It has taught me, among countless other things, to respect the journey and the process in everything, and for that, I couldn’t be more thankful.
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