Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reflections & Musings: How injuries are blessings.

"The vast majority of the benefits people derive from yoga practice 
are the simplest things they are taught: 
inhale and exhale 
or exhale and inhale."
-Leslie Kaminoff

A couple of days ago, I went surfing with my friend Chelsea, and while it's been over two years since I've been at this sport, I still feel like a novice, which is especially hard for me. My previous life tendencies have been to be "perfect" right from the get-go, to do my best to bypass the learning curve, and to never have anyone witness my "getting it wrong." All of these factors happen each time I go out, which is why I keep doing it. When my beau asked why I like to surf, he thought it was interesting that all of my reasons were intellectual ones that push me to grow, rather than for the pure enjoyment of being in the ocean and having fun. (I'm working on that.) Ultimately, because I'm too much in my head trying to get it right rather than being in the present and responding to the natural elements — all in front of countless people on the water and the shore — surfing is an incredibly hard sport for me to learn.

It was sunny and bright out, and we were at a spot we normally don't go to. A wave began to build, one that looked like it'd be fat and slow. It jacked up quickly and I was too late on my take-off. I suddenly found myself going over the falls thinking, "Oh shit, this is going to be bad!" From the top of the wave, I landed with the full force of my right body onto the rail of my board and heard a crack under the water. The force of the wave and the fall caused me to hit the sandy bottom, which was somewhat of a relief, because I knew which direction to push towards to get back above water. Once I broke the surface, I pulled on my leash to bring my board to me, hopped back onto it, and checked that I could move my legs — I was afraid that the crack I had heard had been my spine. Thankfully, all of my appendages were moving just fine, and everything was in tact. I kept paddling around for 20 more minutes until Chelsea caught a wave in and I followed.

Later, the pain began to build. When I told my beau what happened, he winced. "It's likely going to hurt really badly tomorrow," he cautioned. "No!" I exclaimed, hoping he was wrong, and that I could use mind over matter to beat the injury.

Unfortunately, he was right. By the next morning, I yelped in pain as I was trying to get out of bed, had a hard time breathing, and cross-lateral movement was out of the question. I waited another day, then went to get x-rays. Turns out, my rib isn't broken, but severely bruised. It'll take three weeks to feel better, then six weeks to fully heal. In the meantime, lifting my arm, laughing, coughing, sneezing, or plugging a socket into the wall causes me to screech in pain. And, this is all before my second module of an advanced yoga teacher training program, as well as a Vinyasa retreat I'm scheduled to go to at the end of the month.

The Universe has always had a way of teaching me to slow down, because I can't seem to do it myself — I've caught pneumonia, bronchitis, and shingles; my right ankle developed arthritis to the point that I was limping for two weeks; and now, I've bruised my ribs. Apparently, I'm not listening hard enough.

Injuries teach us how much we take for granted on a daily basis. It's amazing how many muscles go into doing the simplest things — turning the steering wheel, picking up a pen, reaching up to open a cabinet in the kitchen. The fact that most everything hurts now means that I am inevitably moving with very patient grace. I'm grateful that my ribs protected my lungs and other organs, that I didn't land on my fins and pierce through skin, that I'm healthy enough to heal over time. But, I'm also learning what it means not to rely upon my normal outlets for physical release. Surfing, rock climbing, yoga, and walking along the beach are a bit out of the question at the moment, as are dancing in my apartment to my favorite music, bear hugging my beau, and laughing with my friends.

I tend to push myself to the max, to over-achieve as my traditional Taiwanese parents drilled it into my head to do, and to not let up, even when I'm hurt or exhausted. Now, I don't have a choice, but to simplify, let go, and be kind on myself, otherwise it's going to be a miserable recovery period.

One of my favorite teachers during my Advanced Teacher Training Program through the Soul Center has been Leslie Kaminoff, renounced for his Yoga Anatomy book. He captivatingly showed us videos of cadavers that caused me to gasp in both awe and unease, and inspired a new appreciation for anatomy of the human body. He also taught us that the greatest impact we can have as teachers are the simplest of lessons — inhale and exhale, exhale and inhale.

"We are deeply attached to our old breathing patterns," he shared. "The minute we can bring body, mind, and breath into integrated movement, amazing things begin to happen."

What happens now that I have to suspend outer movement for inner development? Can I let go of my old patterns of being? Will I let go of fear, be in the present moment, go with the flow, not give a crap what other people think about me, and just have fun — all the lessons I've been trying to teach myself out on the water?

I guess we'll see what happens now that I'm forced to move less and breathe more through these challenges... and learn even better what I'm always teaching in class:

Inhale.
  Exhale.
Inhale.
  Exhale.

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