Tuesday, October 23, 2012

when even the practice is far away

I write about yoga a lot in this space. Most recently, a meditation on my mat. But recently my practice isn't the brilliant, transformational part of my life it so often is. Lately I feel--estranged.

I was cruising along for months, practicing a truncated version of the primary series six out of every seven days, and when I wasn't looking and an injury knocked me down. I hate it when I'm hurt and can't practice yoga. It's like being prohibited from doing one of the things I love most in my life, the thing that makes the rest of life easier to understand, makes things make more sense. But the injury this time was what was most interesting. It wasn't something I'm accustomed to--like a tight hamstring or an achy shoulder--it was... well it was heartache. Heartache that manifested itself in some wicked tightness in my neck.

Sounds hippy-flakey, right?

But I believe--I think I have to, or I wouldn't be where I am in my practice--that our physical bodies are connected to our mental and energetic bodies. I don't know if every time we twist an ankle or overstretch a muscle that we're also (not) dealing with our anger or frustration, our loneliness or self-loathing. I haven't studied enough yet to know how it all works. I also know that there are plenty of things our bodies do biologically without asking; ovulation cramps happen because women ovulate, because hormones tell organs in our body to behave in certain fashions, not because we're lonely or estatic. But I know there's some connection between the body and the mind, the heart, the self.
a chest opener called ustrasana--camel pose. Good for when the melancholy descends like autumn fog

The last two weeks I've been drowning in a kind of sadness. A friend asked me if it was brought on by any thing, and I felt so foolish telling her No, it was more the accumulation of lots of little things. A disagreement here, challenges at work, tasks that fall through the cracks, thereby highlighting my inability to do it all, several miscommunications, and time apart from my favorite people, and suddenly here I am: stranded in the muck, feeling both like I must get out and like I don't want to be anywhere else. I feel often like life is like driving or hiking along a great mountain road: there are lovely views, I'm often climbing, sometimes resting, but I'm always aware that just a few feet away there's a drop-off. Sometimes it's sheer, sometimes it's gentle, sometimes it's covered with giant rocks and prickly cacti, but there the drop-off is, and someone like me, I guess I just fall off edges more easily than some others.

So for more than a week, my injury kept me off my mat. Just like with anything else, yoga became something else I should do, and often couldn't do, because I was in too much pain. After a few days went by, I would unroll the mat and take a downward dog or two, sit in supported Virasana, try to lengthen my spine and reawaken my hip sockets, but it was all tentative. I can barely call it practice. I read an article on yogadork.com about how a relationship with yoga can be like a love affair: at some point the bloom falls from the rose, and it's just you and your self on your mat, working a constant back-and-forth of trying to improve and accepting where you are. Maybe the bloom's finally off my rose; but that doesn't mean I'll be quitting any time soon. For the first time in days, I unrolled my mat this morning and really stuck to a practice, from beginning to end, complete with some chanting at the end. It was interesting: creaky, a little strange, and I always want to be cautious with myself after time off, after an injury. Injury is good because it forces me to let go of any desire to achieve anything in my practice. It makes the practice less about goals and more about awareness. I can't help lamenting all the progress I'd made before the heart-/neck-ache had me grounded, but it's okay. I move slowly, attentively, one pose at a time, paying less attention to the road, and how to get back to where I was. Instead, I tune into where I am on a given day, my limbs, my breath, what my body has to tell me, and how I can treat it well.

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