- April 19, 2016
[fusion_text]A few days ago I was alerted to a message in my Facebook inbox that I had sent six years ago to a friend in my yoga community. I was traveling and had just attended a mysore class and I was reflecting on whether it was working for me or not. I was messaging one friend in particular because she was (and still is) a doctor, and being only 21 years old I was looking for some guidance (not only within the scope of yoga). Here is an unedited section of our conversation, from my end.
“Ok, I’m going to think about it a bit, not exactly sure how comfortable I am in the mysore setting, I will think about it though. I think I have a little tear or something in my inner hamstring, something in my pelvis feels really off! My hips crack around a lot these days, and I am also having trouble with my left knee, I have no idea where any of this came from, all of a sudden everything hurts, I think once my pelvis adjusts everything will get better. I have also been kinda dizzy for the past 2 days, when I move my head quickly from side to side, very strange symptoms!” When I read this a couple days ago my heart started beating really quickly, as I started to remember the way I used to experience my body. It took another two years before I decided to break free of my repetitive practice and begin to learn how to heal. At that time the people I was practicing with didn’t know what to tell me, they wanted to help, but they didn’t have the skills to see what was going on in my body. All they could see was the system we were all using at that time, a system that was designed to make people feel better. So what happens when the system isn’t working, and what happens when someone is stuck? Do we tell them to keep at it? What happens when we don’t really know.
Before I go any further I would like to say that this is not yoga specific, it doesn’t have to be a rant about why I no longer practice mysore style ashtanga. You could be a runner, a weightlifter or a sitting in a chair specialist, for me it was about yoga, but it doesn’t have to be. I see just as many injuries in the gym as I see on the yoga mat. How do we know when we are stuck? Are you having pain in your joints that doesn’t seem to be getting better? Do you identify with your method of practice as if it is part of you, and if you were to make a change that would somehow make you a different person? Do you question your practice and your teachers? Do your teachers empower you to question them? There are no right or wrong questions, just things to think about.
Do something that feels different and know that if you don’t enjoy it that ok, but if you do enjoy it notice that. Know that its alright for yogis to go to the gym, or spinning, or the swimming pool and it doesn’t make a dent in your spiritual practice. Know that you are still a great yogi even if you do your practice 3 times a week, rather than 6 times a week. You are still practicing yoga if you hike once a week or do crossfit. This part took me a little bit of time to negotiate within myself.
See a different type of professional. This was something I used to hate, because I knew if I went to a physiotherapist they would tell me I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, and I couldn’t manage myself if I had to face the fact that my practice actually wasn’t promoting me to heal. There are different types of therapists that can be hugely beneficial, ranging from physio to chiropractic, psychotherapy or an SE practitioner and the list goes on. Talk to someone different, and notice if you are able to take in a second opinion.
Embrace education. Sign up to take a class, workshop or course outside of your usual scope of learning. That means your actually have to learn something about your body, your vessel that carries you through life. For me this meant signing up for a weekend seminar on movement, after that I never looked back. There are endless options especially if you live in a big city. AND IT DOESN’T HAVE TO MEAN GOING TO THE GYM! You don’t have to be throwing weights around to learn something cool about the body.
Once you have taken five different classes, seen two different practitioners and taken a course or two your world will have shifted so preparing for that is key. When my world shifted I made some new friends, I began to eat differently and it wasn’t always an easy switch. I had the support I needed to reorient myself in the world, in my job and in my community. Six years later I am a new person, my brain is different, my awareness of myself and the moving parts around me will never be the same. Six years later it seems so simple, but every day there is a bit of work.