What happens when a yoga teacher can't do yoga?
The other day, after browsing my Instagram, a friend started teasing me. Lizzie, do you even like yoga anymore? You seem like a spin class addict! I know they were totally kidding, but it got me thinking. And so, little movers + shakers of the internet, I need to come clean. I need to be honest with you. I can't do yoga right now and it totally, totally sucks.
At the end of January I got in a car accident on the way to work. I was sitting at a stop sign, somebody hit me, and I now have terrible whiplash. I could go into a long tale of all the details of that day, but it would be boring and ultimately isn't important. I got rear-ended, my car had to spend a month at the car spa, and my body is now in a really fun situation where I am totally obsessed with yoga, but I can't really practice it. At all. I just can't physically do it. It's not for lack of motivation or laziness or any other reason than it hurts my body and I have an injury and it's getting me down. My body is in a lot of pain right now. My free mornings are filled with appointments with specialists and therapeutic massages (such a game-changer!) and a lot of gentle stretching. Because gentle stretching is about as much yoga as I can do right now. I know this is a small problem in the grand scheme of problems out there in the universe, but it's my big problem right now, and it feels so weird to not be able to do the one thing that I love so much I've made my whole life revolve around it. I mean... I have the words down dog in the name of my business!
I can't do yoga right now. I can kind of modify, but usually I have to modify so much that I just want to cry and throw myself very dramatically into a pile of pillows. I can't really put any weight in my hands. I can't lift my arms over my head for more than a few seconds. I can't lift anything too heavy or I start to feel this white-hot pain building in my neck, across my shoulders, down my upper back, and into my arms. I know that it won't last forever. I know that this is a temporary injury and that I am so lucky that it wasn't worse. I know that not being able to do yoga is a very small problem in the grand scheme of things. In fact, it's kind of a #whitegirlproblem and the fact that I'm complaining about it on my blog is only making this more of a #whitegirlproblem, but I need to talk about it. I know that it was my choice to dedicate my life to this endeavor and that I should probably just suck it up. But it still is frustrating. It still is confusing. And I have to be honest with you, it still really, really sucks.
You see, I love yoga. Yoga is my home base. I love the studio that I work at and I love my students so much that I actually start to miss them during my weekends. I start to feel a twinge of heart ache during the days that I don't teach. I got into yoga because I had a few old injuries that just weren't getting better. I found yoga because I needed a community, a place, that would feel like home as I started to discover what it meant to be an adult. Because I can't practice, I'm having a bit of a low-key identity crisis. Sometimes I feel like I'm going insane. I feel like an imposter. I teach classes and can't physically do half the things I ask of my students because my body is on fire and my neck feels like it is being attacked by an army of tiny, internal trolls. What happens when a yoga teacher can't practice yoga anymore? What does this mean?
My regular workouts right now consist of spin classes and running because they are mostly leg-centric and don't aggravate my upper body too much. Because of this, I've been getting a lot of questions from curious friends and readers. Am I training for something? Am I planning on running a big race? You know what? I don't even really like running right now. Not to say that there aren't times that I have loved it, I do sometimes, but right now I have been running and going to spin classes because they are some of the only things that my body can do. I have to sweat to feel sane, so I clip in to the bike or tie on my running shoes to find myself a few times a week.
Over the weekend Facebook showed me a few pictures from my freshman year of college. The pictures were from a rowing trip in Boston and my wrist was all taped up. In some of the pictures my wrist wasn't taped, and instead I had a really horrendous tan line where the athletic tape usually was. When the pictures were taken I had just gotten over a really weird injury in my wrist that made it so I couldn't row for a while. All of this was so long ago that I forgot that I even had that injury, that it was ever even something that used to upset me so much. When I do something I go all-in, so at the time my whole identity was wrapped up in rowing. One morning, unable to row, I was in the coaching launch and I remember I just burst into tears watching my teammates row. All I did was rowing, so who was I if I couldn't row anymore? There was an alumni in the boat that morning with us and I will never forget her quietly calming me down and saying something along the lines of this is just an injury and it will go away, but if it doesn't you will be fine. You are still a rower even if you can't ever row again.
I've had to remind myself five million times since January that yoga is about so much more than just physically doing yoga. Technically there are 8 limbs in yoga and the poses, or asana, is only one of the 8. It's only 12.5% of the whole picture. There is 87.5% of yoga that I can still do, which is most of it. I tell my students this all the time, but I never really had to feel it until now, when my neck is on fire and I'm trying to demonstrate how to correctly hold your hands overhead but I have to put my arms down after a few seconds. Some days I literally have to rest from holding my head up because I have reverted back to infant status and my muscles get tired from holding my big ol' noggin up. It might be years until this goes away, but the important piece of that sentence is that it will one day go away.
Throughout all of this there are some obvious things I like to point out to myself: it could be a hell of a lot worse. Somebody could've died or my car could've been completely totaled or I could by paralyzed or a number of other things that would be much more traumatic. I am reminded that my little yogi community is an amazing and kind one, and that they don't care if I am a Level 1 Million Gold Star yogi or a gentle stretching blob (raises hand). While unfortunate, this whole experience has been an incredible practice in self care, in letting go of my attachment to what I should be doing, and a reminder that in the grand scheme of things, life is still pretty damn good.
So, sweet dudes, as we go into a new week and a new month I hope that you find the space to give yourself permission to be nice to yourself. I hope that you stop being a dick to yourself and that you take care of your body and that you find some space to remember just how good your life is. Because that's what I'm working on right now and while it's totally a challenge, it is 500% worth it.
You da best,