What do you do when you can’t take child’s pose of all poses? At one point or another we’ve thought that child’s pose is for losers. But if you can’t even take child’s pose? What does that make you? A lousy loser?
Well I humbly take that title.
While I was leading my yoga retreat in Maui earlier this month, I injured my knee. I wish I could’ve said it was from diving with sharks or something noble like that, but it was from yoga. My very first real yoga injury. Not bad for a 6 year streak. I was in samakonasana (side splits) and was making a transition to hanumanasana (forward splits). The scene unfolded like the Matrix in slow motion, I saw and felt the top of my left knee go one way and the bottom go another way. I remember vividly the sensation that slowly arose and finally registered in my mind that I needed to stop and pause. There was no panic. No one even realized what was happening to me. It all happened so quickly but in my mind so slowly. I was actually teaching this transition and still talking to the class and watching them transition. No hiccups. No burps. No pauses in my teaching. As my insides pause, the top of the knee and the bottom of the knee came back together and I carried on. No big deal… until I stood up and felt like my left knee was gonna buckle under.
So for the last 4 days of the retreat or so, I hobbled along with a brace and polluted the sweet smell of Maui with my tiger balm fragrance. Of course my ego was not pleased and fueled my desire to continue my practice for the sake of my other body part’s happiness.
I got on the mat, 5:30am the next day and have never been so humbled by my practice. I could not even take child’s pose. Talk about a bruised ego! Bending it all the way was not pleasant and straightening it all the way wasn’t either. “It’s not all bad,” I thought because I could still do 90 degrees. So I attempted some very very very slow sun salutations followed by some shoulder openers, mild backbends, and long inversions. I moved so slowly that I only got in 7 poses before I pooped out. So my practiced primarily involved sitting. UGH! You know how much I love sitting 😛
As I sat, I witnessed so many emotions surface… from anger, pity, regret, frustration, sadness, shame, and eventually ended with curiosity. I wondered, if I can’t even do child’s pose of all poses, why do I even practice? Why should I continue to practice?
In the silence that morning, I saw more clearly than ever before that my practice in the last 6-7 years has all been about the physical aspects of yoga. I’ve embraced the other limbs of yoga and they’ve been a guide for my practice , but they have never been the foundation for my practice. Wow!!! When I realized that I no longer had the physical ability to do what I knew my practice mainly consisted of, it was like my whole entire yoga life has been knocked down. “Now what?!! You can’t even do child’s pose. What a loser, right?!”
After I got over the loser thoughts, I really came to appreciate my practice in a whole new light. The idea that the other limbs of yoga:
- Yama : Universal morality
- Niyama : Personal observances
- Asanas : Body postures
- Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
- Pratyahara : Control of the senses
- Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
- Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
- Samadhi : Union with the Divine
could be the foundation of my practice and not just a sprinkle here and there when it was convenient to study and live them. It’s been about 3 weeks since the sprain (thank goodness nothing tore) and I still can’t put all my body weight down in child’s pose but a very interesting thing occurred…. the moment I let go of my attachment to my physical practice (what I couldn’t do, still could do, wish I could do), I could see and feel the healing process unfold in slow motion similar to when it got injured. Funny thing is that some poses that I stopped doing for a few weeks have become stronger without me even trying so hard like I used to. Hmmmm…. Continue your practice, in whatever form it comes to you in, and all is coming. Most definitely!
On an even brighter note, I hope you enjoy this video of my yoga retreat. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to hold space for these wonderful yogis. I don’t even regret my sprained knee.