Like most Canadian’s, I’ve returned to last week and I am having a hard time coming back from my turkey-induced coma, thanks to a glorious Thanksgiving dinner, combined with several tasty leftover sandwiches over the week. Alas, I have more than Tryptophan to thank for my inability to function; the previous Monday, I had my thyroid radiated with radioactive iodine in an attempt to waylay my intense Grave’s Disease symptoms. I’m now left feeling lethargic, incredibly sore, and comically swollen.
So when I nearly fell asleep at my computer this morning, I realized that I needed to find a way to bring back some vim into my life! But, considering my knee injury and my Grave’s disease, I’m not really in the best condition for doing much of anything. But it got me to thinking that when it comes to illnesses and injuries, it seems I’ve spent my entire yoga practice coming back from one or the other. And so, even though I may not be one to give advice, I’m going to give it anyways. After all, this is the voice of experience talking here. When it comes to illness and injury, there are a few steps necessary to take control of your own healing and to deepen your yoga practice:
1. Give Yourself Time. You have to give yourself permission to heal and give yourself the time that you need without punishing yourself. My friend Brian just survived a quintuple bypass, and actually, saying he survived is a bit of a misnomer, because in fact, he died for more than a minute before being revived by his wife. I digress. We were talking the other day about how difficult it is to be trapped in a body that refuses to cooperate, even though mentally, you desperately want to move on and get on with the process of getting well! How many of us have said something along the lines of, “I missed a practice today! I’ll have to do two tomorrow!” And then we feel we’ve missed the mark on the way to our spiritual, mental, and physical well-being. It’s a slippery slope to walk my friends, and if there is a most vital piece of advice I can give, this is it: Just give yourself time. The rest will come.
2. Know Your Limits. There are certain stretches that push us to the ultimate that we think we are capable. In some cases, you may have gotten yourself into a pose, but it feels impossible to hold. The thing about a yoga practice is that it is important to push yourself, or you never know what you’re capable of. However, there are times when your body is resisting because it can go no further, and you need to embrace that. Accept the limits that your body is setting and then perhaps tomorrow, you will be able to settle into a pose a little bit deeper or you will reach a profound moment in your meditation practice. Knowing your limits will keep you from getting frustrated and then allowing mental blocks to get in your way as much as the physical ones.
3. Try and Try Again. Lotus pose is my Mount Kilimanjaro and always remains a bit out of reach for me. My knee injury just doesn’t lend to the flexibility required to get into this seemingly easy pose. What’s more is that I used to be quite good at it, able to bend my legs into any complicated twist but since I broke my knee seven years ago, this pose is my nemesis. The thing is, I never stop trying to get there. I don’t ever say that I “can’t” quite make it. Today, I got halfway there. Tomorrow, I just might make it all the way. Keep on trying, folks.
So today, I needed some activity. I pulled out my yoga mat, sat cross-legged and took a few deep breaths before I began. But when I went to stretch into Cobra, the pull on my sore neck was so extremely painful that I literally cried out loud. Once I (somehow) managed to recover, I came back into my seated position and returned to my breathing. So today was not the day for getting back into the swing of things. But that’s okay. Another day, it will come. Until then, I just keep on breathing and being patient. If I give enough to my body, eventually, a day will come where it will give back to me.