This Spring, I fell in love with yoga. Again. Its funny because I always think of myself as a Yogini- “Yogagrl”… always– even when I am spinning, training, even when I was Crosftting, I am “Yogagrl”. Since I have gotten to know Yoga, it has always been in the background of my life- for more than 17 years now, my religion- I’m a Yogini. I remember the first time I did yoga- it was like I was thirsty and someone handed me a tall glass of water. Since then, I have moved in and out of my yoga practice- like family, I know that no matter where I move to, it’s always there for me, I can call on it if I need it. Somewhere along the way, I moved away and forgot to write home.
The past several years I have been doing a lot of intense spiritual work and fighting the fact that my body is changing and that I am getting older. I attacked myself with all sorts of things, I was drawn to Crossfit for all intents and purposes. My classes got more intense, everything got more intense. The worst part is I do intense fairly easily- I have a pretty high pain threshold irregardless of my very sensitive, Piscean nature. One day during a workout I injured myself, doing a heavy deadlift. I thought it was going to be a back injury, as it turned out, it was a twisting of the whole left side of my body, and it manifested mostly in my left knee. “I’m strong and fit” I told myself and I continued to work through it. It seemed to get better, in actuality it just didn’t get worse, so I kept working through, through the pain, straight through the feedback that would otherwise implore a NO. I stretched, I mobilized, I wrapped, I iced and I continued working through it. It was in one of the last workouts I went to that I had no choice but to hit the pause button. After having worked closely with amazing coaches for weeks to modify my workouts, my body literally would not allow me to move. I was so upset; there were no more modifications to be had, I couldn’t do the work, at all. I left feeling like a failure, I felt like my body had let me down and I was defeated.
With lots of resistance, I took a break from Crossfit, for about 6 months and then, feeling somewhat healed, I returned. “I just needed to recover and rest, this time I am going to do it right, more carefully.” It didn’t take very long at all for my knee to become inflamed once again, maybe a month. This time, the pain was more immediate and more painful. I took another break, another month or so off. This time felt like it would be different, I was in less consuming pain, so, you know, I went back, again. Only this time, it got to be the worst it had been and in only 2 short weeks after being back. I had met my match. The thing that breaks my heart is…I kept going back. It wasn’t Crossfit…it was me. I kept attacking. I was suffering. In this swirl of self loathing, so much more than just me suffered; I abandoned my studio, my relationships were hard and rife with conflict, I had to back off teaching my classes, I had to back off everything. At this point, I now had a severe injury, one so intense that I really thought surgery was to be my only option. I was angry, no, I was pissed. “I’m healthy! I take care of myself! I eat well! I do yoga! I take care of myself!!!”…..and then I got real…
One of my most beloved Spiritual teachers, Iyanla Vanzant, says “You’ve got to call a thing a thing!” and my thing got called.
It was the middle of a dark and gloomy day, I had worked through so much intense pain that I just couldn’t take it anymore, and on that day, around 1 o’clock, I surrendered myself to the sofa. At that point in early Spring, it hurt to stand, it hurt to walk, it hurt to sleep. I stopped meditating because it hurt to sit. I was exhausted, I was stressed out and I couldn’t get out of bed. I would do the bare minimum for work, for anything really, and try to get to nighttime, where hours of t.v. ensued- t.v. and wine. But this one day at about 1 o’clock, I looked at my mat rolled up in the corner along side the bookshelf and I layed it out. I got on it and I started to stretch.
I started with breath and then I began to move through the Sun Salutes. The thing about injuries is that they can be your truest teacher, you can’t forget that they’re there- I couldn’t. I had to move so slowly and so deliberately, so I did, and it felt like water. It felt like air. I remember feeling total elation… and love, love for the first time in what seemed like months. It was a deep love, the kind of love you have for something so sweet and defenseless, like a baby or a puppy. It was for me… It was all for me.
After the practice I sat in meditation and wept. It washed over me and I could see myself, I could see that I hadn’t been taking care of myself at all. I may own a yoga studio but I hadn’t stepped on a mat for ages! I wasn’t eating great either! I was eating processed vegan meat and cheese products on the regular. I was drinking wine, every day, and lots of it. I was staying up late and sleeping even later. I realized- I had left the building!– my body- my house-my temple-GONE! BYE!… and in that moment, I woke up.
I started going to my friends’ hot yoga studio in Northampton- Shiva Shakti. I was a little nervous of a class situation- ok, my ego was a lot nervous about the class situation, I’m a teacher… and although I advocate for others to take care of themselves and modify, that apparently was hard for me to put into practice. I did the Hour Of Power at noon. I was amazed about how much I could actually do and I had this feeling of accomplishment, it felt so good to move. The poses showed me where my healing needed to happen. “Can you move this way? How about in this pose? How’s this one feel?” The heat, the sweat, the after of a hot yoga class, was just incredible, and it felt amazing to be back in my body. Because I was still having trouble getting out of bed, I committed myself to go to the Monday and Friday noon classes each week and the other days, I would practice at home. I bought a 10 class card.
When I wasn’t thinking about or doing yoga, I was making some pretty big changes; I stopped drinking coffee, I stopped eating all processed foods or foods that came in a package, and I ate only things that I prepared myself. I stopped pretending I was healthy and I started listening, I started breathing… I got real. I started eating fruits and vegetables, tons of them. I started eating real food. I started seeing an incredible neuro-muscular therapist/ medicine man named Peter Howe, once a week. I started taking turmeric and reishi tinctures. I started drinking water; hot, cold, with lemon or plain. I stopped drinking alcohol, completely. I started saying my blessings before going to bed and upon waking up. I started to meditate again. I was falling in love with my life. I started waking up at 7am. Now, I could make the 9:15 class.
My 10 class card was up and I figured, I could go more than 2 times a week… I bought the monthly with the sole intent that it was just a better deal then the 10. And then, I started going to yoga every day, and each and every day, my knee was shifting. Between the weekly therapy with Peter, the daily practice of yoga, the gorgeous food, and my total and 100% commitment to being back at home in my body, I was healing, and my knee was also. I recall a morning that I actually forgot I had an injury and I bounced down the stairs in delight. I felt amazing, inside and out.
Around week 4, I was a new person. Feeling incredible, totally empowered, totally inspired and lit up, I was rebuilding my business, renovating my life. I was creating new and gorgeous, sustainable habits and I saw the positivity reflected back to me everywhere. That morning in yoga, I wept again. I wept because I got to and acknowledged how mean and impatient I had been with myself. I realized how mercenary I had been, how punishing and how conditional. I realized, I needed to forgive myself. So I did. I promised myself that I would work on loving myself more. I could, I would, work on showing myself daily that I matter. I reconnected with my desire to show others to do the same. I rebuilt my studio from the inside out, I brought in and fortified each and every room in those spaces with love, both in the studio and in my home. I rededicated myself to the studio and to my community as a teacher. I came home.
You know, all of this is really for me to say, no one can do this work for you. This injury literally brought me to my knees. When the pain gets to be bad enough, your choices are to stay, or to disappear. Yoga taught me to stay. This injury showed me so much about myself and has brought me back to the magic of Yoga. What a gift! Yoga for me is the conversation between me, my breath and GOD. I find myself now often missing my knee injury in my practice and pondering where it went… Don’t get me wrong, it feels so much better to be able to walk and live pain free, but it truly was my Guru. The word Guru literally means one who helps lead or guide one from the dark into the light. Whether lovingly or loudly, gently or brutally, the Guru, my knee, GOD, was pointing me to where healing needed to happen.
No medical man, no pill, no one outside of you can tell you what you need or how to get there. I can tell you that my experience of trying to disappear, to numb it away, drink it away, exercise it away, eat it, or ignore it away, didn’t work out well for me. I can tell you that this life of yours is yours- Call upon your healers! Call upon your teachers! Call upon your spiritual leaders, your Gurus, your friends! They are your midwifes! They are the ones who can help you birth your pain and suffering. Care for yourself as you would a newborn child, with the same amount of love and care. You matter. Love yourself up like you do.
Yoga was my path, I encourage you to find yours.