Learning from Injury
Updated: May 27, 2019
This is what I learned when I injured myself.
Following is a post I wrote several years ago about a time when I injured myself in yoga. I want to share here because personal responsibility, learning from our mistakes and truly listening in deeply to the body is such a key in life!
Yes, I injured myself, and, yes, I did it doing yoga. I feel compelled to write about this process of injury and (hopefully) healing and what it brings up for me.
What I notice having an injury is all of the judgment I turn toward myself. Definitely I made a poor decision while teaching a class. I deliberately chose to continue moving into a very strong asana (bird of paradise) while I wasn't properly aligned. My back was stiff, so I pushed my hip out a bit to compensate for it, which put a significant amount pressure into my hip socket - obviously too much pressure. While rising up I felt a snap right at the joint. That was two months ago, and still the pain and ache persist, like there's a constant pressure inside the joint.
The physical toll of an injury is obvious. It sucks, but the emotional toll is much more distressing. The self-judgment that comes up for me is harsh. I'm so stupid. I deserved this. What's wrong with me that this happened. There's this sense that, since I teach yoga, and I injured myself, I must be a bad teacher. I definitely project my judgment of myself onto others, assuming that others think I shouldn't be teaching, or I must be a bad teacher. And this internal abusing of myself can easily turn into disgust and self-loathing.
Then there's the sadness and self-pity. It’s easy to feel depressed when you can’t do what was so easy and so natural. Now it is kind-of scary. I wonder how long it will take before I can practice again? Is this permanent? Will I ever be able to practice fully again? Will I ever move into bird of paradise again?
I know that everything is part of the practice. Life is my practice, and I’m so aware that the challenges that I face on my mat are the same ones I face in life. The practice of presence and mindful attention during asana is the same practice of presence and mindful attention I bring to all of life’s challenges and experiences. It’s easy to know all of this in times of health and to encourage this in students who are struggling, but for me the real learning comes now, during an injury when I am the one who is limited.
So now I recognize that this injury is another facet of my practice, taking me to a place where I need to grow. Injury forces us to be in the moment and fully attentive to what’s going on in our bodies. We have to be mindful. It is a practice of learning to being with what is, and finding peace with that, of letting go of attachment and judgments. The practice becomes stillness and meditation, kirtan and gentle, sweet movement. The result of this mindful practice is allowing forgiveness and compassion to flow and emotional healing to occur.
So, I am learning to be loving and nurturing toward myself through this injury and to see myself as someone deserving of compassion and understanding. This is a time of letting go of that which doesn’t serve me.
Yoga is always an unraveling, and when we think we’re fully unraveled, something happens to show us where we need to let go.
In gratitude for the teacher that is my body.Paula