Public Service Announcement

 Sawai Madhopur, Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan

Sawai Madhopur, Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan

This PSA is brought to you by every teacher who wants to help every student grow. 

Dear Yogi,

INJURY IS NOT A CAUSE FOR SHAME.

Your body is temporary. So is mine. So is hers, and theirs, and his. Your capacity to read in low light, to eat cheeseburgers and still slide into superskinny matchsticks, to work like a machine for 14 hours on only four hours' sleep, to stand on your head, to but both feet behind your head, to put both feet on the floor, To Inhale: your physical capacity for all things will one day fall away. The state of being able-bodied is a transient state. Do not hide your injury from yourself. Do not hide your injury from your friends, your family, your community, and do not hide your injury from your yoga teacher.

Your yoga teacher wants to help you. They want to keep you free from pain and to use movement and breath and awareness to help bring ease and clarity and discovery into the system that you move across the surface of our shared planet. Hiding this from your teacher doesn't protect you. It might make you feel less vulnerable, but in fact it actually makes you more vulnerable, as your teacher lacks information that you possess, namely that your body doesn't like to go that way, or that you're carrying an injury that may not go away in the next 90 minutes, or that ow! it hurts when you do that. Offering a cursory comment like, "I have a neck thing, but it's no biggie," or, "yeah, some back pain, but I can work around it," or, "There's some knee pain but I can modify," tells your yoga teacher nothing about what's happening. It tells your teacher that there's some injury or discomfort somewhere within you, but that you are enigmatically (though likely not deliberately) going to hide it from them, so they either guess, or run the risk of aggravating it. 

You don't have to bring MRI results, or a complete medical history, or a note from your MD. YOU DON'T HAVE TO PRACTICE THROUGH PAIN. Any teacher who says otherwise* is not worth the investment of your time and money. In fact, you don't even have to take this advice; you can continue on the path of enigmatic communication, and hope that the space between you and your teachers will be informed by their nonverbal communication skills and deep listening. We get better at this, we really do, if we're trying. But when we ask about injury, we want to empower you to banish the spectre of shame around your injury. Working with injury is so valuable. It teaches us, you, any practitioner who is willing, So. Many. Lessons about listening and working with attention, about the edge of a posture or sensation, about the breath as a tool, about being present. 

This practice we step into, yoga, is about making the unconscious conscious, about meeting yourself where you are, and acknowledging that without judgment, with attention, and exploring how that changes with time, dedication, and ardent, earnest devotion and attention to the practice. Injury is a reality of having a body. There is NO SHAME in it. Please, speak freely about whatever is coming into the room with you: lower back pain, pinched nerve, torn meniscus, PTSD, substance abuse and recovery, eating disorder, menopause, anxiety, pregnancy, WHATEVER**. Trust us. Let us work with you. Bodies do not always feel like a safe or easy place to live in, we know as well as you do. When you let us in by telling us about your injury, we're able to provide an experience that helps, hopefully. It might allow you to move out of a space of pain, of gripping, of fear, and into a space of cooperative, compassionate relationship to and with your body. Vulnerability is hard, we know. But it's part of what it means to exist here, and we believe in you. We believe in your ability to be vulnerable by being honest, and we believe in our ability to hold space for you and help you stay safe in your vulnerability in our room. 

Love, your yoga teacher

 

*please note, yogi, there's a difference between intensity and pain. Sometimes the things we ask you to do aren't easy. That's deliberate. Building strength requires meeting resistance, and working with it intelligently. Knowing the breath will help you tell the difference.

 

**just a quick word to say I know that menopause and pregnancy ARE NOT DISORDERS OF ANY KIND. I'm not an insurance company, or a white male American senator. Still, I want to point out that these experiences have consequence in the body, and it's important to tell your teacher about them. They affect your practice. That's okay. Let it be okay.