Slow Motion

I just did 20 minutes of bed yoga. This was my first real yoga session in two months. (This post comes from a place of frustration – just so you know. Feel free to skip past the lament and straight to the last five paragraphs or so.)

Since mid-August I’ve been struggling with a running train of health issues, starting with bursitis in my right shoulder. It forced me to a near standstill, partly due to pain and partly because I needed to take care not to let it get out of hand to the point where it would require a corticosteroid injection into the joint (I have experience with those in my other shoulder, and if they can be avoided – avoid them!).

What happened next was pretty much my own fault. Here’s what happened.

We’ve been doing some house and garden renovations. The garden was done entirely by a rather brilliant gardening company who turned our back garden into a thing of beauty– for the first time in years, we actually spent time in our garden, enjoying the weather and relaxing in comfort. But the garden wasn’t the only thing we decided to change.

The living room also got a revamp, and a lot of that was (IKEA) DIY. Now, people who know me will tell you that I tend to attack these projects with reckless (stupid?) abandon, and this project was no exception. There was a couch to be put together and a TV/audio cabinet/book/display case to be built and I was on it! Since the bursitis was in decline, I got cocky and basically spend three days hammering, sawing, lifting, and doing general construction, taking as few breaks as I could because I wanted it done.

This was after I’d spent several hours the weeks before taking apart bookcases after emptying them of what I can only describe as a mountain of books and moving those books into boxes and those boxes around the living room in anticipation of the new furniture arriving.

Now, when I do things like this, I am not particularly good at paying attention to my physical well-being. For instance, I am perfectly capable of ending up with bloody scratches and bruises in strange places without being able to reconstruct the specific events leading to them.

Which is how I broke a bone in my hand. Not sure what I did exactly, but broken it was.

Quite painful, really, especially the first few days in the cast.

It was around that time, incidentally, that I also noticed a painful spot around a vertebra (which I think I can trace back to hitting my back hard against a table while moving around furniture, but I can’t be sure – it’s a particular talent; what can I say?). That painful spot is only marginally less painful 4 weeks on.

All of the above is not to invite you to a pity party, just really to illustrate the self-inflicted nonsense I’ve been dealing with these past 2 months.

And as I said earlier, it’s brought me to a near standstill.

And, as I also said earlier, this morning was my first yoga session in 2 months. It was only 20 minutes of bed yoga, but that’s the only yoga I can do at the moment. My hand and wrist have been painful, stiff and near devoid of strength since the cast came off, and I can’t really place any weight on them, which makes a lot of yoga poses quite difficult (downward facing dog, cat cow, cobra, and so on). So the asanas for now will have to be mostly focused on mobility and flexibility, and any surface I practice on will have to be soft yet supportive, both for my hand/wrist and my back – i.e. bed yoga.

It felt so good to finally be doing yoga again. If I’m honest, it wasn’t just the injuries that kept me from practicing; I’ve also been in a bit of a funk since all of these issues started. Pain is demotivating and exhausting, not to mention it makes you pretty damn cranky! But as, since all this started, I’ve gotten only a fraction of the exercise and movement that I used to get as recently as 4 months ago, I’m now seeing a massive decline in strength and mobility. This morning’s session really brought that home for me: I was sluggish and inflexible, and I spent most of the session pushing past the discomfort in various parts of my body.

I also spent a lot of time comparing what I was able to do this morning to what I was able to do not too long ago. Beginner king dancer? Forget it! Crow? Pipe dream at this point. Supported head stand? Umm, no. Eight angle pose? I don’t even want to think about it! And I used to be able to do those poses!!

That said – and this is the good part – it felt so good to finally pick up my yoga again. Nothing has really been forgotten; I still spend a good part of my day thinking about the various poses, yoga philosophies, how to get used to yoga with fewer asanas for the time being, and how I can incorporate what I’m going through into what I hope one day to be a practice that includes others: a practice that aims to help people in similar situations to me, people who have injuries that prevent them from doing the asanas that an undamaged body can do.

It’s also helpful for me to see that I need to make a mental adjustment. While I firmly believe that it’s good to keep striving for progress – of course it is! – doing it just for that reason to me means I’ve been doing it for the wrong reasons of late. I need to do the yoga that is good for me, both physically and mentally. I shouldn’t be doing it to show off how advanced my poses are and how “good” I am at yoga. If you do yoga and you’re doing it well – that is: in a way that is good for your body and mind – then you’re good at yoga. More than that: don’t do yoga to be good at yoga. Do it because yoga is good for you.

Maybe it’s a reminder I needed. For a yogi, I’ve been pretty damn awful at listening to my body, always pushing too far. It’s in my nature, but it’s not exactly healthy or sensible. And it’s certainly not yoga.

So here’s what I’ve concluded: I’m pretty stubborn so life has given me a kick in the butt after repeated and futile gentle nudges. I guess for me the lesson here is to take the subtle hints a little better from here on in. I hope I’m not too old to learn.

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