Yoga Is Dangerous

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Whenever William Broad of the NY Times writes a sensationalist article, the yoga blogosphere gets all in a tizzy.

I’ve never participated before because, well, I don’t really think it’s all that important.

I am well aware that yoga is dangerous, because being a human being is inherently dangerous.

I know that every morning that I get out of bed there is potential danger lurking, but being afraid of that is debilitating and will not serve me in the slightest.

Inhabiting a human body means that you will inevitably experience pain, trauma, disease, degeneration and death. There’s no escaping it.

Practicing asana is certainly no more dangerous that running, climbing, skiing, or stepping down off a curb to walk across a busy street.

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Pain, Sunburn, Laughter and a Sobfest.

That’s all folks. That pretty much sums up my day.

I wish I had some brilliant insights and beautiful photos to share with you, but honestly, I’m spent from the good and the bad of this day and all I really want to do is snuggle up with my man and maybe kick his butt in a round of cards.

Yoga made me cry this morning – involuntary dribbly tears. It was a morning of shooting pain, weak arms and getting dragged down by my defeatist attitude. Those practices happen. Live and learn.

Left yoga early, got online, contemplated changing my return ticket back to the States to leave…tomorrow. Had a little cry. Thad got home and in attempts to make me laugh said “This really is the worst honey moon ever”, which promptly turned me into a massive sobfest.

And then that too passed. Had a group breakfast, DG gave me some good solid advice and reassurance about my practice including a legit compliment on my bakasana – “you really are my student!”  That was good.

Power was out in the whole town all day long. So, in an attempt to stay cool, we went to the beach. I managed to get a tiny sunburn on one arm and my belly. Lame. It hurts.

Had some good laughs, read a good chunk out of my book and then topped it off with a tasty early dinner and some cake with friends.

Boom. That was my day in a nutshell.

Let’s hope for something a bit more profound tomorrow, shall we? But I made a promise to post every single day so this is what you get.

Love to all my readers for sticking with me on this Indian roller coaster! Thanks!

Blessings

Frances

Processing.

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Time for a little honesty.

More than five times a day right now, I think to myself “I wish we hadn’t come to India this year.”

My yoga practice is the only thing holding me on this beautiful and wretched subcontinent. But sometimes that’s not enough.

I realize I’m blessed to be here, to have this time to work closely with my teacher and get a nice tan, but even so, I’m struggling and I wish I was back home.

Yesterday I barely made it through standing series before I crying. These were the first real tears of the trip. I guess it was just a matter of time. There was no specific trigger per se, just the overload of emotions and fatigue. Simply standing there breathing in samasthithi was enough to open the floodgates.

I’ve had this low-grade headache for almost a week now. It comes in waves but is ever-present. Not surprisingly, this has significantly lowered my tolerance for just about everything. I’m feeling super sensitive and I’m finding that my feelings are getting hurt left and right.

By now, I’ve resigned myself to my modified practice. I’m not expecting to make massive leaps and bounds this trip. I’m not concerned with getting new poses or deepening my backbends.

Honestly, with my SI pain the way it is, I’m lucky if I can do supported dropbacks at all. And that’s fine.

David is helping me work with my condition, to build strength and stability. I’m barely doing kapotasana (DG says it’s “irrelevant” right now, which is kind of amazing. I wish it was always so!). Instead I’m spending time each day squeezing a rubber ball between my thighs like crazy as I slowly and cautiously repeat and hold ustrasana and laghu vajrasana.

Despite my relative patience and acceptance of this time of injury, it’s still kind of lame to be the gimp when so many people around me are getting new poses, pushing themselves to deeper levels and then discussing the intricacies and challenges of their new asanas all the time.

Today I finally snapped at Thad, “I don’t want to hear about how hard galavasana is one more time! I don’t give a sh*t!!!!”

Yea, I know, best little wifey ever, right? But seriously, come on, of course it’s hard, it’s fricking third series, it’s supposed to be hard!

Sigh…

Okay, here’s another thing.

On our third full day here, I checked my email for the first time and received some news that really shook me up.  It was so upsetting initially that I became dizzy, nauseous and very faint. I’m Victorian like that. If my corset was any tighter I probably would have fainted then and there.

Since then, I’ve experienced a roller coaster of emotions from diabolical rage, disgust and panic to utter hopelessness, resignation and disinterested apathy. Over the past few days, this situation keeps returning to me, at times making me very sad and upset but then passing over, leaving me complacent and empty inside.

Often in life it seems like we get to a place with one of our personal challenges where we think we’ve “won”, when we believe we have  finally learned the lesson we needed to learn, experienced the growth necessary to move on and it’s now over. But this can be misleading.  For me, I’ve found that often I resolve an issue only to a certain degree, when, tired of the work involved, I push the emotional remnants under the carpet, disengage or deny it all, under the guise that I’m practicing non-attachment. I temporarily forget or ignore the issue, until life throws it back up at me with a wicked vengeance.

This is what is happening now.

It’s easier the second or third time around of course. I’ve spent so much psychic and emotional energy unpacking it, contemplating, trying to learn and forgive. That work was not in vain, but it’s not finished either.

In this sense, I’m thanking my lucky stars that I’m on the other side of the world during all this. I’m kind of glad I’m not easily accessible to my family. I’m extra glad I don’t have access to a phone. So much less damage is occurring because of my absence.

This distance is giving me the space and time I need to find balance and acceptance.

My yoga practice is offering me the opportunity to process these difficult emotions, to work through the pain and hurt.

Processing is not easy work. And being in India is not easy either. It’s as if this place purposefully confronts you with your shortcomings and challenges. There’s no escaping it.

But, as we often say,

“Better out than in.”

 

Here’s to working it out…

 

Blessings,

Frances

Pain Coming. Pain Going.

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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,

Frances

 

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What’s Inspiring Me Today…

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Remembering Shyam Das – a true Bhakta so full of love, devotion and a real gift for sharing this with others. His kirtans at Bhakti Fest were always some of the best. He left his body in India yesterday and he will be very missed. He opened the hearts of so many people with his hilarious yet deep stories and perfectly bhav-bubbling-over kirtans. There are many beautiful words and stories floating around today about Shyam-ji. This post from Krishna Das is especially moving. Haribol!

This video of B.K.S. Iyengar as a young man practicing awe-inducing asana. I find these old silent films of the Krishnamacharya’s devoted students absolutely awesome – way more cool than the groovy tuned, scantily-clad yoga-girl videos so prevalent on the web today.

David Garrigues talking about pain and injury in Ashtanga Yoga. I needed to hear this today. My SI pain has been acting up a bit, so it’s good to have this reminder….still trying to figure out what the lesson inherent is….but no doubt about it, pain is real.

I’ve been into digging through fanciful assorted images of dancers, actresses, antique prints and other oddities on the web recently. I’ve been compiling a board on Pinterest of some of my favorites.

 

What’s been inspiring you recently?

Love and Blessings,

Frances

 

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