Over the past month or so I’ve been nursing a bad back. Of all the times it had to play up, it was whilst back in India, but regardless I had to work with where I was at at the time – and I continue to do so each an every day. Since returning home my back has been 1000% better compared with what it was. A combination of my own bed, developing my pelvic floor strength and maintaining a regular practice have all contributed to the rapid healing process. But whilst my back feels better, if there was anything I learned whilst in India this time round, it was the importance of understanding my limits.
As an Ashtanga practitioner, unfortunately the ego can be a big problem. I see it a lot in yoga, but in Ashtanga especially (due to being such a physically demanding practice) the ego can quickly take over. Turns out, in my recent circumstances, if I allowed ego to take over I would have been in a much worse position and the healing may have taken far longer. Why? I would have pushed myself beyond what my body was ready to accept. For those who have not practiced in Ashtanga, it is a set sequence that involves many jump-backs and jump-throughs and these require excellent control of the core and pelvic floor. I’ve somewhat feared the jump backs (into caturanga) as I’ve worried my core is not strong enough to support a soft land. If I don’t land softly and strongly then I run the risk of throwing my back out – again! Not ideal. Rather, I’ve been taking it nice and easy over the past few weeks by stepping back into a plank position before lowering into caturanga with control. I felt safe here and I knew this slower process was not only allowing my body to heal, but it was teaching me how to be more mindful when making this transition. I’ve seen many people injure themselves here because of a lack of core and pelvic floor strength and the reliance on muscle strength alone. This is a recipe for injury. Trust me, I know! But in my practice this morning I felt it was time to re-introduce jump backs. It took me a little while before building up the courage to make this transition, but when I did I felt elated. Turns out through my injury I’ve developed a control in my practice that I’ve not experienced before. Whilst it might sound a little crazy, my body felt light through the transition. Almost weightless for just a split second.
This feeling, however, only lasted for about 4-5 jump backs before I could feel myself getting a little lazy in the practice as I was tired. So I knew it was time to pull back and return to taking it one step at a time. For some, especially very advanced practitioners, this will seem irrelevant and unimportant. But for me, this is very important. It was a little win and I believe it is these little wins which amount to bigger and bigger wins over time. Whilst I’m referring to a physical movement, there is much more depth to this achievement when we look into it a little further. It’s about the commitment to the practice and to myself, to my healing. It’s about patience, trust and the ability to recognize when it’s time to challenge ourselves and when we need to pull back. It’s about the acceptance, self-love and the letting go of ego, which can be so destructive in our lives.
Having worked in Rehabilitation for so many years, I’ve seen countless people push their way back into a job that only further aggravated the injury they had – physically and emotionally. Placing unrealistic demands on themselves, comparing themselves to their colleagues and expecting they can push aside, or numb with drugs, the issues at hand. The reality is, when we are recovering from an injury or illness, or just learning something new, we need to allow ourselves the time to heal. To learn or relearn. And this all comes down to acceptance. Acceptance of the path you’re on, where you’re at on that path and the process you need to work through in order to continue moving forward. Do not underestimate the value and importance of taking one step at a time. These little steps, little wins, will not only make a big difference from a physical perspective, but it will also shape the person you are and are becoming.
Sending big hugs,