“nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know
…nothing ever really attacks us except our own confusion. perhaps there is no solid obstacle except our own need to protect ourselves from being touched. maybe the only enemy is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. but what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. if we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. it just keeps returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.”
In late November of 2008, I had my first wrist surgery. When some of the symptoms of my original injury resurfaced, I contacted and revisited my surgeon in April of last year. During our visit, the x-ray and his examination were inconclusive. He ordered an MRI and I scheduled a follow-up with him immediately following the test. On the drive down, I was so busy convincing myself that it was fine; I almost turned around and went home. There were about a million other things I should be doing and clearly, if he hadn’t been able to recreate the discomfort, it must be all in my head. I sat in the room with him while he reviewed the results, waiting patiently for him to uneventfully send me on my way. He was quiet, just a little too long. He then took a deep breath, told me that there was more tearing, and then proceeded to calmly explain that he would need to operate again. Giant, fat, hot tears formed in my eyes and began to slide down my cheeks. Warm weather was fast approaching, we had vacations planned…not to mention the fact that I had just turned 40 in March and I had made such huge strides in my practice. I had convinced myself that 40 was my year, that I would accomplish all of my goals. He told me that I could postpone the surgery until after my boys had returned to school in the fall. So, I began this blog post, 5 years after my first surgery and 7 weeks after my second with one of my two pins still in and my cast still on. I also began it with every intention of it containing an in-depth and highly technical explanation of how and why it is possible for you to end up in an operating room because of your participation in Yoga. However, the healing process and the writing process (often times critical to one other) have morphed me and this post into something else entirely.
My biggest question to him: “What am I supposed to tell my students? How am I supposed to tell them that Yoga is good for them when I am recovering from my second surgery in five years, from an injury I sustained doing Yoga?!” His answer was something along the lines of: “Now Amy, there are risks of injury with ALL sports. Runners injure their knees, swimmers injure their shoulders, cyclists break their collar bones…” And on and on, and so on and so forth. I have had lengthy discussions with my trusted friends who are Physical Therapists and we are in complete agreement. There are inherent risks with almost every form of physical activity. However, the health benefits of moving your body far outweigh those risks. Yoga is complicated. It is a science and there is a great deal of learning and self-discovery that takes place as we develop a relationship with ourselves and our practice.
The truth is, accidents happen. The initial incident was a complete fluke. All caught up in the collective energy of a three-day intensive, glistening with sweat and inspiration, I slipped and fell. I completely tore my Scapholunate Ligament and my TFCC was no longer attached to my bone. Three years into the healing from the first surgery, with my range of motion reasonably restored, I was back at it. I have always been very strong and athletic. I was convinced that these qualities would serve me on my mat and that I would be able to accomplish whatever posture that I applied myself to. I was attempting to “muscle through”. I thought that the surgeon had “fixed” the problem. Except the true problem wasn’t my wrist at all. It was a multitude of other things that required my attention, energy, and awareness. As I sit here, many months later, on this damp, dark day, using my warm, jasmine tea to ease the small ache that still lingers in the palm of my left hand; I am attempting to wrap up this blog post (finally) and wrap my head around exactly what it was that this persistent issue/injury had to teach me? My answers, in no particular order, are these:
* That it is possible for me to have an incredibly strong Yoga practice that doesn’t consist of floating into a handstand in the middle of the room. That sometimes the strongest parts of ourselves do not serve us in every moment and in every facet of our lives. Inviting our ego to dissolve and allowing the softer aspects of ourselves to expand can be profoundly useful.
* There is an incredibly liberating amount of freedom that comes from maintaining a reasonable amount of flexibility in regards to our expectations.
* When I allow this acceptance and understanding to take root and blossom fully, a beautiful spaciousness and grace develops in my life. It travels from the cells of my body, to the periphery of my skin and beyond the edges of my mat. This expansiveness benefits my family, my friends, my students, my community, and the world.
* Integrity, peace, continuity, and longevity are my goals for my practice.
* Honoring our bodies is an advanced practice.
* The true beauty of a Yoga practice exists in the luminosity that emanates from a body, mind, and spirit dancing in harmony as one.
* That perhaps my job as an instructor isn’t always to help you find the answers but to assist you in discovering the perfect questions. And I hope you will continue to return to your mat until it has taught you what you need to know.