My Yoga Journey: dealing with setbacks
The best relationship advice I ever received goes like this. Before you commit to a lifetime with someone, you need to ask yourself whether you are prepared to have the very first proper argument you had together over and over again, for the rest of your life. The veneer of the fight might look slightly different, but underneath, you will still be fighting about the same thing. And as someone who has been with the same (wonderful) guy for 13 years, I can tell you this is absolutely true.
And I think it applies beautifully to yoga too. The first problem you have with yoga will be the same one you face again and again. It will express itself slightly differently every time, but the root of it will not change. Laziness? Inconsistency? Boredom? Frustration? Ego? Take your pick. Because it's going to follow you for the rest of your yoga life.
For me, it's a lovely lethal combination of impatience and ego. I want to be able to do everything NOW. I think I should be able to do it THIS INSTANT. And I will push my body beyond what it is capable of in the vain attempt to achieve this unachievable goal. Which, my friends, is the quickest way to hurt yourself known to man.
The best/worst example I have of this is a real doozy. So much so that even writing this is hard because I still feel like such an idiot. Such. An. Idiot. But here it goes all the same...
Rocking along in my yoga practice. In the previous 2 weeks I had posted on Instagram three firsts: Utthita Pandangusthasana without a strap, head to my knee in Janu Sirasana, and Padma Sarvangasana (albeit still using my hands to get into lotus). I had started going to a Rocket yoga class on Sunday's and was super inspired by all the inversion madness going on around me. So much so that one Sunday evening I thought I would try out a few of the drills the teacher had been taking us through.
On my concrete kitchen floor.
Without a yoga mat down.
Without remembering 90% of the safety cues he gave us.
Without enough upper body strength to do a handstand against a wall. Are you seeing the warning signs yet?! The inevitable happened. My right arm crumpled (my weaker side because of the previous bike accident damage - check back to my very first post if you missed it) and I fell onto my right shoulder.
It was an audible snap.
I knew instantly I had broken my collarbone again. Twice in 18 months. All because I wanted to try something I knew my body wasn't ready for. Because I thought it would be cool.
Cue a month basically off my mat entirely, a good 4-6 months to get my strength back to where it was, a right side that remains much weaker than my left, and an ego that still isn't 100% recovered. And a whole lot of fear to get over when it comes to more advanced inversions.
But the point of this post isn't to scare you with stories of what can go wrong in a yoga practice, or to prove to you all that I am in fact a total idiot. I called it 'Dealing With Setbacks' for a reason.
Because while this was, and to some extent still is, a massive setback for me, I learned SO MUCH from this miserable experience. And it all boiled down to the fact that my ability to practice is more important to me than what my practice looks like. There is no world in which it is more important to me to nail a pose which then compromises my capacity to actually practice, and even more importantly the longevity of that practice. None.
Not that I have this nailed mind you. Remember the relationship advice at the start of this post?! Yep, this is the argument I will be having with myself for the rest of my life.
Pushing too hard, again and again.
I haven't, thankfully, had another serious injury. But I may or may not have tweaked a knee, dislocated a toe, and/or overdone a pec muscle since this collarbone break.
But I like to think, no, I know that I all of those injuries would have been much worse if I hadn't learned this lesson the hard way already. I am stupidly proud of the fact that I came back from three weeks of crazy intense yoga with the super human that is Dylan Werner, and a room full of insanely inspiring fellow practitioners, without having hurt myself. Because a year ago I don't think that would have been possible. I would have pushed and pushed until something had broken. Literally.
Setbacks in your physical practice are inevitable. I hope they aren't in the guise of serious injuries, but they may well be. And either way, they present real opportunities to learn. About your practice, about yourself, about the other limbs of the yogic path. And to make sure that the next time you have that same argument with yourself, the consequences are a little less severe.