The Balancing Act
When you do any sort of physical practice with regularity, at some point you’re going to deal with injury. Whether it be playing sports, frequently attending a gym, doing pilates, running, biking, or practicing yoga, injuries happen. That being said, injuries or other physical conditions can also happen at random or be hereditary. Suffice it to say, none of us will ever be immune to injury, it comes with the territory of being human. Therefore, how we handle injuries is what truly makes all the difference, good or bad.
This past year I have been dealing with a handful of physical conditions and injuries. A few weeks prior to my Ashtanga intensive at the Miami Life Center, I had a relapse with an autoimmune disease that I was diagnosed with in my teens. This particular disease causes extreme pain and swelling in one's extremities for seemingly no reason at all. The stress, anxiety, excitement and anticipation of being in Miami, as well as extreme fatigue and large life changes, caused this autoimmune disease to resurface. Because of this, my time in Miami looked very different from what I had originally anticipated. My yoga practice was so heavily modified in order to protect myself, it hardly resembled traditional Ashtanga. In the beginning, I was completely disheartened by the situation. I even considered packing up my bags and calling it quits at the end of my first Intensive week.
When I become overly concerned with what my yoga practice looks like, when I get hung up on the need to progress further, when I get disappointed with myself because I feel weak, or stiff, or too tired, or lazy, or inflexible, my amazingly wise boyfriend will say to me “Nik, what are you doing? Are you doing yoga or are you doing asana?” That very question came back to me at the end of my first week in Miami and changed everything. I dropped the pity party I was having, I started going to acupuncture every Friday morning, and I began working with a physical therapist. Yet most importantly, I continued on with my practice, fully accepting the fact that it needed to be drastically different for a while. I stayed in Miami for five weeks and had a profoundly powerful experience, regardless of the fact that my daily physical practice was minimal.
When we’re hurting, when our body is not cooperating and we're physically limited due to injury, it’s important to take time out and assess the situation. Our bodies will tell us so much if we listen. Sometimes an injury or physical issue will arise and the only thing to do is take a break and give ourselves time to repair and heal. Taking a needed break in the face injury or ailment can be absolutely necessary for the health and wellbeing of our bodies. I recently herniated a disc in my back and could hardly move or breath without excruciating pain, let alone get on my yoga mat… Needless to say, I took a break.
Yet when an injury is present, it’s relatively easy to become complacent with our bodies, out of fear of hurting ourselves further. Believe me, I’ve been there! Taking a break can be very important. Yet getting back to our regular practice is very important as well! There was never a time when I was in Miami that my teacher, my physical therapist, or my acupuncturist told me to stop practicing. They simply told me to pay close attention to my body, to take it easy and not push too hard, to be mindful of my condition and respectful of my limitations. With this advice in mind, I continued my practice and I eventually made a complete recovery from a condition that is extraordinarily difficult to recover from.
Listening to the body and its signals will help you to identify the best course of action. Don’t be fooled, this is no easy feat… I’m sure you’ve heard countless stories or have personally experienced trying to push through an injury out of pride, only to injure yourself further and be forced to a halt. Maybe you’ve experienced the opposite, having an injury and being petrified of moving your body again, consumed with the ‘poor me” mentality, or being annoyed at the fact that you need to heavily modify in order to proceed.
I believe the key is to find a middle ground - To push ourselves without pushing too hard, to go easy without becoming complacent, to try without the need of gaining something, to have a healthy respect for fear but to not let it stop you, to recognize when your pride has taken over, to cool your jets and modify when your body needs it.
At the end of the day, your body and its wellbeing is of utmost importance. Finding balance when handling an injury is the only way to health… Take my word for it, as I am finding this balance myself every single day. Maybe that’s the same thing as Finding Isvara?