Posted by: kerryalina | 2 June 2013

Out of Commission

I’ve had a bit of a rough time lately.  I injured my leg in a Master Class a couple months back and decided to stay away from the studio until it healed enough to put my weight back on it.  Unfortunately, as soon as I got to that point… I crashed my car.  My first car.  That I’ve had for less than a year.  “Devastated” would be an understatement.  Also an understatement: “mortified and ashamed.”  I went camping with some friends and whilst driving on a gravel road for the first time, I braked just slightly too hard and lost control.  I went into a spin, slammed into an embankment and wrote my poor little Polo off.

Also pictured: Tow-truck driver who tried to rip me off

Also pictured: Asshole tow-truck driver who tried to rip me off

Luckily (thank god!) there were no other cars involved and nobody sitting in my car, and yet I wasn’t alone: I had friends nearby to help me.  I wasn’t seriously injured, but I was bruised, battered and suffering from a hell of a case of whiplash.  Once again, yoga was put on hold until I got some range of motion back in my neck.  Although I know that Bikram would have helped me heal quicker… when moving my head a centimetre in any direction was cause for pained yelps and insta-tears, just the thought of Pranayama breathing was enough to make me hyperventilate.

Around this time, there was what seemed like an endless list of things in my life that weren’t going to plan.  But to avoid drawing the pity party out any further, I’ll just hit the most pertinent point: right around the time my neck finally healed, I ended up in hospital with what my doctor referred to as “super bad bronchitis.”  And then my bronchitis meds interacted with my whiplash meds in a really super bad way.  Which wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had.

You’re getting the picture, right?  It was a two month period where pretty much everything – big and small, personal and professional – felt like it was going wrong.  And not only was my life collapsing, it was doing so in a way that prevented me from attending class, that was keeping me away from Bikram – the one thing I’ve come to rely on to help me through dark times.

But instead of wallowing in self-pity, instead of getting frustrated and upset and angry… I just waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I took my medicine and I did my exercises and I waited.  And yesterday my leg was strong and my neck could move and my lungs were clear and I went back to class.

And it was glorious.

I think one of the greatest things I’ve learnt through Bikram is some semblance of patience.  I’ve never been a fan of delayed gratification – if I want it, then I want it all and I want it now.  I’ve always been the type to download a new television series and watch the entire thing in one sleepless weekend; the person who decides at midnight that I want ice-cream, immediately walks to the supermarket to buy a punnet, and gorges myself on the entire thing before rolling uneasily into bed.  But that doesn’t work well with yoga.  It doesn’t matter how much you want that perfect Standing Head to Knee, it’s just not going to happen without putting in years of boundless effort.

And so over the past two years, this impatience of mine has become a much less visceral desire.  Sure, if there’s something I want then I would prefer to have it now.  But if I can’t, then that’s okay.  And if I do have to wait, I can do so without becoming frustrated and anxious.  I put in the effort that I can, and then I just wait.  And I’m okay with that.

Perhaps the word I’m looking for isn’t patience, exactly, but acceptance.  And I’m so very grateful that I found it.

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Responses

  1. Kerry: I am sorry to hear of your misfortunes but I am very happy you are ok and that you made it back to class. It gives me some hope that, even after what is now a 20-month hiatus, I will get back into that room. Eventually. Perhaps I need to learn acceptance. With your permission I am going to refer to this post in my next one.

    Namaste.

  2. I am sorry you’ve had all those things happen in the past couple of months! That is a lot for a short time :( I’m really happy that the first class back was so awesome though! Love when that happens!
    I am also struggling with stuff keeping me from practicing with any semblance of consistency. There was whiplash, chronic dehydration even though I’m drinking a gallon per day and taking electrolytes, doubts that this yoga is physically good for me, doubts that I want to even continue to say “Bikram” ever again due to what the man is like, blah blah blah. Anyway, I remembered that you had issues with your hip and that the physical therapist didn’t want you practicing anymore. What happened with that? I’m just curious, because I’m also at a point where I think this yoga might be physically bad for me and I’m kind of at a loss.
    Hope you continue to heal well and soon!

    • The “is yoga actually damaging my body?” question is one that I’ve struggled with a number of times. This is how my process usually goes – hopefully you’ll find it useful!

      1. Take a couple more classes. I find I start having these doubts after a run of “bad” classes. Generally the next class will be fine and the doubts will disappear.

      2. Talk to your teachers. Whether you’re questioning a particular posture, the entire series, or the heat, they’ll be able to offer suggestions. Maybe you’ll have to sit out a particular asana for a while. Maybe they can offer a solution to the dehydration issue that you haven’t thought of. Remember, they’ve been practicing for years – they’ve been through teacher training! – and they’ve experienced everything you are feeling now. Chances are they’ll have some tips to get through it.

      3. This is the one I struggled with the most: Acknolwedge that every physical activity damages the body in some way. Yes, even yoga. If you practice perfectly, then yoga is a purely healing exercise. But 99.999% of people aren’t able to achieve this – especially at the outset. We overstretch, don’t give 100% of our attention to form, or get impatient. And then we can damage our bodies.

      But the benefits of physical exercise far outweigh the injuries. Runners lose toenails and sprain their ankles and knees. Cyclists suffer from lower back pain and ITB syndrome. Footy players damage… well… everything. But all of these athletes still increase their longevity and quality of life. And when yoga is practiced correctly, it’s vastly less injurious than pretty much any other form of exercise. Try asking yourself – if you quit Bikram, what would you do instead to stay healthy? How would you prevent injury with that exercise instead?

      If you’re still unsure about whether Bikram is the right thing for you, take a break. If it’s damaging your body, then you should start to feel better :) That’s what I did with my hip issue. I took three months off, I did all my physio exercises… but my hip just kept on deterioriating while the rest of my body started to fall apart as well. In desperation, I returned to Bikram… and after one class, the pain was completely gone. That was the clincher for me.

      • Thank you for writing all that out. My thought process goes about the same as yours. I’ve also noticed that without yoga my life and body are overall worse off than with. And I definitely have had that experience where a few classes are bad, and then after a few more things get better again. I guess with some of the health struggles I have had, they have left me worrying too much about my health. It’s very difficult to overcome. Where does being cautious and aware of injury/dysfunction stop, and obsessing start? I will probably continue practicing. I can’t really think of any other sport/activity that is as beneficial and at the same time safer. I like running, but my knees cannot take it at all. I like swimming laps, too, but it’s nowhere as good for the body and mind as yoga is.

        Thank you again for your reply. It makes me feel less alone in this. I sometimes feel like the teachers and other students are all “fangirls” and that makes me apprehensive about talking to them. I know not all of them are, but it feel like that in the studios. I also doubt they learn a whole lot in teacher training. I do know a few teachers that have been teaching for a long, long time, and I think those would be the ones to talk to. I’m sure some of them have gone through some sort of crisis of purpose at some time of their life.

        Thank you! Namaste :)

  3. Wanted to pop back over to thank you for your comments! Made a lot of sense to me and to another reader. Makes it easier to weather this time without yoga. Thanks again!

  4. i did the exact same thing in my polo! except i rolled the poor little thing.. saddest day ever :( dirt roads are a killer.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I had a relationship come to a fiery end and I put my ribcage out of alignment during the drunk fun times that followed the break-up which meant no Bikram. Then when that started to heal I went back to class and pushed TOO hard into full locust (one of the positions I do best) and pinched a nerve in my back so then it was physio and rest and NO BIKRAM and NO EXERCISE. So, like you, I had to wait it out and weight it out :(
    It’s nice to read that there was someone else out there who had a couple of months of waiting-just like me! I’m back now and I’m so happy about it.
    I wish you lots of peace and strength in your practice :)


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