Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ego causes injury? Go thank yourself.

Before I say another word, I’d like to acknowledge my enormous debt of gratitude to Michelle Marchildon for her genius “Thank You is the new F* You.” Sister, deep pranams to you for the radical and instantaneous e-nlightment of that post.

Now, to the rest of you currently writing and expressing the opinion that injury is caused by ego, let me say, as an injured person, that you can all go Thank yourselves.

To those defending yoga from the perceived attack of the recent New York Times and other pieces, I’m not buying this line that Yoga doesn’t hurt people. Ego hurts people. Thank off.

Yes, sure, I know that I have a role to play in this piriformis syndrome – this poor piriformance -- that has had me off my mat since December. But really, is ego the only option?

I am suggesting two other explanations. Naturally, these are explanations that make me feel a whole lot better than the ego explanation does because, let’s face it, the ego explanation feels like shit, really does feel like, to me, someone wagging their high-and-mighty self-righteous yogic finger in my face. You did this to yourself, so shut up. The truth is always complicated, right? Sure, there’s ego in it; I’m human. But when I think about what landed me here, with an aching booty and radiating nerve pain down my left leg, dude, it’s not ego.

First, instead of ego, I’m saying bhakti. Yeah, that’s right: devotion. Suck on that. My piriformis has been murmuring its unhappiness at me for a long time, for probably a year. But my dog was dying and when I lost him in March, and then my husband had a really serious accident, I couldn’t imagine giving up my practice – doing without my teachers, without my kula, without the teachings in the midst of all that heartbreak and grief and anguish, so I worked with the murmuring, backed off, modified, took breaks. I had lost so much already. I couldn’t very well give yoga up too. Yoga was the thing keeping me together. So I kept at it, gingerly, listening.

And then came puppy. My shattered heart mended and I fell in love with Mr Burns, a rescued puppy who came to live with us 6 months to the day after we lost our beloved Jasper. Burns was four months old, adorable and exhausting. I had totally forgotten how much work a puppy is, after fourteen years with our Jas. And Burnsy, we discovered at the vet a few weeks later when we asked why he might be so reluctant to go for walks, had a broken toe. We were told to keep him from jumping on and off of furniture, in and out of the car. So, more bhakti: I would carry him like a baby, lift and place him carefully, lovingly, guarding his foot, wanting him to heal. A devotion which was easy in the beginning, when he was 26 pounds, and became more challenging, though I didn’t notice it, as he grew, as he was 35 pounds, then 43, then 52.

And all the time, I kept practicing, a little less because I had this new baby to care for, a baby I couldn’t bear to leave.

So it was that the week before Christmas, I sat up in bed one Saturday morning and my piriformis, finally, sick of not being heard, let out its big scream. Since then, I’ve had almost constant pain and have been 100% off my mat.

And second, on top of bhakti, I’m also crediting my adhikara for being where I am today, benched by an injury. That’s right: my studentship. Adhikara is an equal partner with devotion in this whole arc toward my current immobility. I love the study of yoga so much: I love being in class, I love learning through the practice and so I hung on to it, even when I was not feeling strong, because I love it so much -- the wanting to know, the thirst for knowledge, for making the connections in class, the delight of feeling a truly gifted teacher turn all the lights on in my heart. ALL the lights on in my heart!!  Do you even know how hard it is for me to be away, to not be receiving fresh input, to be outside the studio looking in? It’s like a weird exile, one I never wanted.

My injury began in yoga, began in a repetitive motion I was making in response to a verbal cue, a motion that I can re-create right now if I want to be in more pain. I take responsibility for the fact that my piriformis was getting involved where it didn’t belong, my big ass compensating for my quieter inner thighs.

You can say that ego is what injures us in yoga, but I know better. I know what happened to me: that my devotion and my studentship, my beloved bhakti and adhikara, helped me to land in this particular spot, this quiet place where I am not doing asana but still doing yoga with my mind. And this is exactly where I need to be right now, practicing other limbs of the path, being a devoted student in my own way, resting my poor sore butt. And marveling at the language flying by right now, at how our poor egos are being maligned and held responsible for situations to which they may contribute but which are, as is everything, so much more complicated than one single factor can explain.

So really, I mean it, Thank you all you people who keep blaming the ego for injury. If nothing else, you’ve given me a lot to think about while I remain at home, unable to do asana with my teachers and friends. If someday you have this same pain in the ass I have right now, you may think differently.

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