"I'm not flexible."
"Yoga clothes grab me in all the wrong places."
"I don't have the strength."
"It's just not for me."
Yoga can carry with it a heavy intimidation factor. A presence that says unless you are bendy already, don't bother entering. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know this because I once said all those same things. I came up with every excuse to avoid yoga. I ran in the opposite direction from anything that made me feel like a beginner, awkward or uncomfortable.
I had found my comfort zone with running. I'd go to the gym and run a few miles a day. I had a routine and I stuck to it. Until one day, my emotions were rather heavy and I thought getting outside to feel the wind on my face would help. It seemed romantic enough to me. Like they did in the movies to blow off some steam. Pop in a pair of headphones and run away with my sorrows. Over an hour later, I returned home and once the adrenaline settled, I noticed a terrible throbbing sensation throughout my right upper thigh-groin area. A doctor's appointment later and I discovered that my hip flexor was torn. I was told I'd have to lay off running until the muscle had healed.
Divine intervention? I like to think so. My sister had mentioned yoga, something neither of us had tried before. I wasn't interested. She begged that I just give it a go and eventually, I gave in. Our first class was comical. My hands and shoulders could barely support my downward dog and my sister's feet cramped up throughout the class, dismantling any kind of flow. Were these expected first-timer symptoms?
As I laid in savasana I was proud that I tried something new. I was filled with an infectious feeling that was new to me. Like all the cells in my body had smiles on their faces. They thanked me for the time I spent moving my body, listening to my body, observing my responses to movements and expectations. I was blown away and the rest was history. I knew that this practice was going to change everything, I just wasn't sure how. I made a promise to myself to keep showing up and to watch what would unfold.
My weak right hip flexor was felt in every pose and aside from all the modifications I was already doing early on, I needed to be careful with this area of my body. I was frustrated and felt limited. I wanted to do more, to look like the rest of the class and my body was holding me back. What did it mean to have an injury? To have to proceed with caution and make adjustments? To take the time to heal?
It meant developing patience and understanding. It meant making my mat a place of union between my body and I rather than a war zone. I realized that we were on opposing sides and I had made it that way. I saw this injury as a problem, as a disadvantage to the rest of my practice. With time, I came to discover what this strain really was. It was an area that needed more attention, more care and more love. Things that the rest of me was capable of providing, support and assistance throughout the healing process.
Years later and a practice in developing awareness, I am much more connected to my body and it's movements. In any pose we do both sides and often, they feel different from one another. The right side of my body that experienced injury is much more mobile today. It moves with ease in comparison to my left. The strain had opened it up, creating space to grow, develop and expand. The surrounding systems strengthening themselves and the pieces of my hip flexor.
My weak right side became my strong right side and that's what injury does. An injury to the self- physical, emotional or spiritual, hurts. It demands attention and is felt with every move we make. And how we decide to respond to the pain makes all the difference. When our systems break, more space is created. It hurts until it doesn't hurt anymore and before we recognize that we aren't hindered by the pain anymore, we discover we are better because of the injury. We developed in empathy and compassion and strength. We gained new perspectives and stories to tell ourselves through experiencing the pain. We wouldn't be who we are today without the injury.
The next time you notice you're dealing with pain of any form, be kind, find softness and decide how you want to respond to yourself when you're hurting. How do you want to show up for you on your weaker days?