Injuries suck. That's my "inflammatory" remark for October. Inflammatory in honour of my joints that are cranky about the wild temperature swings this autumn and my moods that are shifting in time. Of immanent concern to me is my sacroiliac joint that, according to my self-diagnosis and research, is destabilized to the point that has surpassed annoyance and become an undeniable part of my daily life. It is aggravating and, for someone whose livelihood makes it necessary to move fluidly and contentedly, downright frightening to be injured. It is also, however, for an anatomy geek and yogi, a humbling and fascinating puzzle for me to sort out.
Since I've been discussing with my class the three of Patanjali's niyamas that are associated with Kriya Yoga (the yoga of action), I'm applying the practice to my current predicament... Action in the face of injury isn't necessarily pushing through pain. It is means replacing self-pity and apathy with disciplined, constructive behaviour.
Tapas, the third niyama, means heat (such as would be generated by fiery purification, the burn-off of physical and spiritual toxins through intense physical and spiritual practice). Because of this injury, I took some time to rest and practice gently, but I did so grudgingly, missing the "heat" of my regular practice. Eventually, caution cooled my enthusiasm for the mat and my injury became and excuse. With a new look at tapas, I started to consider sequences that provided what I need instead of insulting what I want. With a sacrum that's pulling away from the ilium (top of the pelvis in the back), my tendency towards opening and mobility needs to be replaced by stabilizing and strengthening. Triangle pose, which I ordinarily love, is not working for me these days. I need to consciously back off on my forward bends, which I usually find easy and enjoyable. I need to be disciplined about not pushing past the point of safety, and adding more belly-based backbends (bow pose, locust) that will help strengthen the muscles around unstable joints.
Svadyaya, the fourth niyama, is the study by and of oneself, introspection and reflection on the mind, body and spirit. Instead of moping, I've been reading, experimenting and booking massage and physiotherapy appointments. I've also been meditating more consistently and studying my reactions to the healing process.
Isvara Pranidhana, the fifth niyama, means surrender (as in, to God): recognizing the higher Self, if not in a religious sense then by remembering, with gratitude and humility, that we are merely individual threads in a vast and beautiful Universal tapestry. OK, body, I surrender. Universe, you've got my attention. I need to take care of myself. I must enthusiastically shake myself out of complacency and habit. I offer what I learn to my students. It's difficult to make a blessing out of an injury, but I am certainly trying.
Through the practice of tapas, svadyaya and isvara pranidhana, we commit ourselves to action, take responsibility for fuelling our own transformation and healing, and make a conscious effort to dismantle the attachments and illusions that hold us back. Dedication, applied learning and perspective make every moment an opportunity for transformation, learning and joy. I'm not finding it easy to stick with this attitude, but I am finding it a worthy endeavour that's keeping my focused and optimistic.
So get fired up - bring courage and discipline to your path. Examine yourself - you're a worthy and wonderful subject. Surrender - you're part of something far bigger, richer and more powerful than you can imagine. I hope to see you in class and at Shrifest 2014. Surrounded by the rich, warm hues of autumn, let's take action.