This morning in Mysore practice I was struggling. The pain in my SI joint was making me feel miserable.
My back was stiff and I felt weak and heavy.
Over the past week I’ve been experimenting with modifications for my practice. I’ve played with doing all standing series and then going twice through Intermediate up through ardha matsyendrasana.
One day that felt great. The next day my SI was a mess again. Rest day came…that was nice and then Sunday it felt great again. Second series was hard, but my upper back was needing the opening of those early backbends. As always, I’m reminded of how non-linear this practice really is.
Today something shifted though. In my body and in my mind.
My kapotasana might just have been the hardest one I’ve ever tried. It wasn’t pretty. My fingers couldn’t even graze the tips of my toes. The memory of firmly grasping my heels and lifting my hips with strength felt like more of a fantasy than a recollection of past practices.
After two attempts to move through the challenge and pain of it, I was truly feeling like giving up on the world (I know, I know, such a drama queen!).
I collapsed into supta virasana and lay back in defeat. I had this urge to tuck my pelvis and flatten my lower back to the floor. I did so and suddenly this “click” released on the right side of my sacrum. I immediately unfolded my legs, placed both feet on the floor and then gently squeezed my legs towards each other. My inner right hip/groin area popped.
Suddenly all the burning pain in my lower back dissipated. It was exhilarating.
I lay flat and enjoyed this feeling. But my relief quickly faded and instead was replaced by a nagging anxiety ….”What do I do now? I’m afraid to move and keep practicing…what if I lose this feeling and the adjustment in my pelvis? What if all the pain returns?”
After a minute or two of rest and stillness, I sat up and prepared for my next pose, supta vajrasana. Eric, one of the authorized teachers who leads Ashtanga Denver, came over to assist and I shared with him what happened in my pelvis and my fear about “losing” this shift.
He told me that Guruji used to say “No pain? Pain coming. Yes pain? Pain going” to students working through hard times of opening and injury. Eric said that this was Guruji’s way of reminding students that bodies change, that pain comes and goes and that it’s important to practice non-attachment. By clinging to the feelings of ease, or hiding in fear from the pain, you only bring yourself more suffering. Pain is real, suffering is optional.
This is such a basic tenet of yogic practice, but somehow I had overlooked it throughout these months of injury. Non-attachment is something I know in the book-learning way of knowing something (jnana), but apparently not in the vijnana or true experiential understanding way. This was really illuminating and such a wonderfully humbling moment.
With these reassuring words ringing through my ears, I finished my practice. Knowing that this too shall pass, these words about the inevitability of pain were somehow comforting. But only if I didn’t grasp, only if I could just let it be what it was, let this practice unfold without fear. I could appreciate the therapeutic nature of these Second Series poses. I could practice with more lightness in my heart, and with a deeper sense of trust.
I love when my yoga practice humbles and teaches me in ways like it did today. I am grateful for the challenges and the opportunities it provides to self-reflect, open and grow.
Blessings and Love,