There are few things in life that irritate me more than being the injured yoga teacher. Throughout my graceful yoga career, I’ve thrown my back and hip out, sneezed so hard I once pulled a rib out of place, had whiplash from a car accident, tripped over my own two feet, and banged into every piece of furniture within a two foot radius of me. Most recently, I’ve had a body that feels like it’s made out of twigs due to an allergic reaction to a medication. What gives?
Yoga has a funny way of teaching us what we need to learn… even if it means sometimes backing off from our yoga practice. Recently I practiced handstands and arm balances when my body was not quite healed enough to accommodate them. I knew this, yet my ego got the best of me and I tried to muscle through it. The next day I was rewarded with stiffness and pain, and I sheepishly realized that I too am guilty of the same issues I try to steer my students away from.
Yoga is many things – not just asanas (physical postures). A yoga practice can be finding awareness while peeling an orange, listening to your breath as you walk, chanting mantras or simply turning inwards and tuning into yourself. Part of your practice is learning and accepting what is appropriate for you in each and every moment, knowing that your reality shifts from day to day.
As with many things in life, your greatest challenges become your greatest assets. An injured body teaches us to slow down and find a practice that is strong yet soft, sustainable and joyful… and isn’t that the real point of yoga?