A couple of weeks ago I went back East for the wedding of one of my best college friends.
I was anticipating that it was going to be really fun and possibly traumatic. I expected that things like dancing would be fun and that alcohol and nostalgia could lead to trauma.
I got it wrong.
The nostalgia was lovely — it was great to see my old housemates and talk about what it was like to be young. The alcohol situation I resolved by befriending the bartender, who helped me battle my lush-y desires by agreeing to put only a splash of vodka in my soda every time I came back for a refill. (which was about 8 times. He was cute — what can I say?)
Oddly, the dancing turned out to be the trauma. At some point in the night that I can’t exactly pinpoint (unrelated to the vodka splashes) I completely tweaked all my intercostal muscles/my right rib.
I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling much pain the night of the wedding, but when I woke up, I couldn’t really move all that well.
My first thought was, “I have to make sure this heals fast so I can keep doing yoga.”
I was in more pain thinking about not doing yoga than I was in pain from barely being able to move.
So when I got back to SF, I went to yoga class, even though the pain of even laughing was bad enough to reduce me to tears.
I actually cursed my way through class. Afterward, a friend who’d been next to me confessed, “I kind of felt like I was holding you up energetically all through class. God, I’m exhausted now!”
It was kind of a slap in the face (and a good reminder that there’s a lot of ego in Yoga.) I mean, not to brag or anything, but I’m kind of used to getting complimented on my energy. Of course, you’re not really supposed to be doing yoga because you like getting compliments about your great energy.
Nonetheless, I became more determined to heal so I could go back to class the next day and shoot some energy back at my friend. To prove my worth, I breathed as loudly as I possibly could.
A week later, when I thought I was almost healed, something got tweaked in class, and I was in a lot of pain. Fortunately, I had the totally appropriate response: “This yoga class is stupid.”
Since I go to the same studio ALL the time, I’ve basically memorized the dialogue, so all the sudden it occurred to me how stupid the dialogue was.
I was so pissed off at the stupidity of yoga that it was a struggle for me to stay and help clean up the studio after class and still be semi-pleasant. I walked out, determined never to return.
The next day, I went a different studio, figuring that would solve problem. It was Anusara yoga, the tradition I’d started with, and realistically, the slower pace of class would do less injury to my rib.
The problem is, at the Anusara studio here — they really love to talk.
The teacher began telling us we were going to use our bodies to understand our relationships and the balance between giving and receiving. By time I heard, “relation..” I was gagging.
As usual, the pain in my side got worse as class went on, and then the teacher ended class by inviting us to connect ourselves and think about having a balanced relationship within. I seethed internally, “Do you have any idea how much time I spend talking to myself? If I have to connect with myself anymore, I’m going to f*cking scream.”
So I walked out, thinking how dumb that Yoga studio was, too.
On Thursday, a variety of factors lead me to yet another yoga studio.
I knew that I should really be at home doing more work, a quandary I resolved by spending the 15 minutes before class holding my breath and worrying about work. The class started 20 minutes late, which made me worry about work more, so that by time we were able to enter the room, I only wanted one thing.
I wanted to punch someone.
Not surprisingly, class ended up being painful. There were many moments when I literally got stuck and couldn’t move. And as I sat there, frozen in half a warrior one or with my butt wedged in the air unable to make it to child’s pose, I could only have one thought.
I hate yoga.
Then I expanded my thoughts to: I hate this teacher, I hate this music, I hate this studio. And I continued on, “I hate yoga. I hate this teacher.”
Never once, of course, did I think, “I am a moron for going to yoga class when I am in serious pain and have hours of work to do.”
I zipped out of the studio only to have the teacher chase me out and thank me for coming. Even though I hated him, I put on my fakest smile and pretended to be the open, friendly, community-oriented person I’d thought I was the week before.
When the door closed behind me, I whispered, “I hate yoga. I want to punch someone.” I bemoaned the fact that I had done irrevocable damage to my rib/intercostal muscle/whatever it was.
But after a few minutes of biking, I started to feel really peaceful — kind of the way you’re supposed to feel after doing yoga.
I got home and got ready to work. I had planted down on my futon with my computer on my lap when (this is where this gets kind of embarrassing, but bear with me) the song from Wicked that is all about “loathing,” came on random.
It’s just these two witches. And all they do is sing the word,”Loathing” over and over again.
And I was so so happy. I burst into a mini dance break. My computer toppled off my lap. And despite a whole variety of movement, nothing in my body really hurt that badly at all. Somehow, just the permission to sing about hatred made me not really hate anything all that much.
It was more of yogic experience than anything I’d done in the past week and a half. And as for the pain in my side, I realized that when I stopped thinking about how much I wished it would go away, it was a little sore but no longer a sharp pain, and not much of a hindrance to anything.
We can always learn something from our injuries, and in this case, this forced me to confront the fact that you haven’t really achieved inner peace if you can’t maintain it when things around you aren’t peaceful. And in the past two months, I have spent excessive amounts of time doing yoga, giving people yogic advice, offering “healing” back rubs to anyone and everyone in pain while simultaneously removing myself from the equation.
It’s just like in the Sound of Music when Maria falls in love with the Captain and runs back to the nunnery because she can’t deal with her feelings and the Mother tells her that the nunnery is a choice, not a a hideout for people trying to escape life.
Much like the nunnery, the yoga studio is not a place to hide. If you choose to devote your life to it, that’s a different kind of commitment than using it to forget about your everyday job or everyday problems.
Because if it turns out that you still have concerns about your everyday job or your everyday problems, they will probably show up in a torn intercostal muscle. In order to really commit to your development as a person and a practioner, you have to give yourself permission not to always behave in a yoga-like manner.
So I went back to class. I didn’t go in with an attitude of trying to be capable, peaceful, available or even remotely having my sh*t together. The practice felt pretty good.
But after, when my teacher asked me what my injury was, I kept mumbling about my ribs and couldn’t really get the words out. And then I started muttering about work. And I dropped my BlackBerry and I knocked over my backpack.
He looked at me kind of sadly and said, “Well, I hope you start to feel Ok….about yourself.”