I am supposed to be on a 16K training run right now, but instead I’m sitting on a sofa resting because my foot has a stress fracture. I’m very good at staying within my limits in yoga, but when it comes to running I sometimes overstep my bounds.
It’s always some inglorious thing that finally does it. Yes, of course it’s the net balance of rest, hydration, nutrition, and training load that ultimately determines what gets hurt and when, but the injury itself comes from me wearing my running shoes for too long. Not profound. It's such a subtle change that from day to day it doesn’t seem to matter. Yet I could have told you this would happen, because shoes only last a certain amount of time. A part of me thought I could get away with it a little longer, and I was willing to find out.
I’ll hazard a guess that many yoga injuries probably happen this way too.
While we generally understand what we can and cannot do with our bodies, there’s a part of us that would like to either ignore or hope that we can get away with more than we thought. Frankly, that’s how we learn, and the school of hard knocks is an excellent and consistent teacher. So rather than tell you how we should be careful with our bodies or mindful and breathe more (we should), I think it’s also good for us to push against our limits if only to know where they are (within reason: adhere to some self-preservation, please).
The thing with yoga is we’re going to have these moments where we accidentally overstep the mark.
It’s part of the process because you are part of this process.
If you have patience, that will be with you when you practice yoga. If you have any semblance of ego it will be with you when you practice yoga. It’s all there, for better or worse, offering you something to work with as you move your body into various pretzel shapes. This is the particular beauty of the practice as you work with your body on the mat: the mind is always along for the ride. You will see the limit of your body in more obvious ways. The ways your mind says you “should” or “should not” are also there. How you do anything is how you do everything, so these asana provide a kind of beta-testing for the soul. Some amount of vanity is going to inform the kinds of poses you or I try to do, and it’s going to be a part of me that dictates why I think I should even be able to jump through before I’ve worked on the range of motion of my wrists. The way I approach yoga tells me everything I need to know about how I’m charging through life.
So yoga is self-inquiry in the most blunt, direct way. As you participate in this current iteration of the game called life, everything you tell yourself about you being good enough, not good enough, almost good enough but conditional on you nailing this next pose properly shows up. Your tendencies to push yourself hard show up. Your frustration at joining a 30-day yoga challenge and making it to day one only shows up. You can see yourself exactly as you are. This is very helpful stuff. It’s the juiciness of life, and we can learn a great deal if we choose to lean into it.
By leaning in and paying attention you will notice your tendencies and your habits just as much as you observe the evolution in your balance or your forward fold. You have a mind to work with just as much as you have a body to work with. Often you can work with one by moving the other. As you cultivate this self-awareness, you can better inform future decisions — like when to ease off in a pose or notice when the self-talk is getting harsh — or you can wait until the lesson is offered to you again. It’s ok to have the lesson offered several times. You are your own snowflake with your own things to learn along the way.
May you not be on the sofa too long while you figure it out.
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