Yogi Down! {Stay On Your Mat}

Yogi Down!  Stay On Your Mat

By Dafina Lovelace

Almost two and a half years ago I was out of work for a month and a half due to a back injury. I had a bulging disc between L4 and L5 and it made me incapable of moving, walking, driving, standing. About all I was useful for was laying on my back with my legs on the sofa or up a wall. Prior to this injury I was in 4 car accidents, 3 of them within 45 days of one another, and the final about a year later where I was rear-ended and my car was totaled.  Yoga was my go to healing method, but during one particular practice day between accident #3 and my final accident, my focus was off and I injured myself. Here is a retrospective piece, written on October 4, 2013 but never published.

One of the lessons that is often taught in yoga is to, stay on your mat. As a yoga teacher this is what I tell a lot of first time students, clients, and friends that are practicing yoga for the first time.  This is a literal instruction as well as a metaphor that recently while practicing I forgot.  I know, when practicing hot yoga that I need to:

  1. Stay in the room, which is sometimes the biggest challenge on a humid day
  2. Release judgment of myself (and others),
  3. Listen to my body, and
  4. Take the lessons learned on the mat, into life off-the-mat (outside the yoga studio).

We should work to eliminate what Beyonce calls in her song… ‘A Big Ego’!

This past Sunday at RedHot I ran into my Big Ego and totally lost touch with lessons 2 and 3.  

Staying on my mat in the physical sense is easy, sometimes, except .. these eyes do wonder. Some poses look easy, some people make them look easy. The woman on the mat to my left  made chair pose look so easy and beautiful. I was 98% on my mat, but my eyes were the 2% off my mat. Instead of focusing forward, I was looking at what the woman on the mat next to me was doing. The minute my eyes saw how beautiful a chair pose could look, I stopped listening to my body and attempted to go deeper.  I wanted mine to look like that <- and there she is… my Big Ego.  

My ego-voice is named Diamond, she is all bravado, sass, and everything Beyonce’ songs are made out of.

My ego-voice is named Diamond, she is all bravado, sass, and everything Beyonce’ songs are made out of. Diamond does not hold back when she is reminding me of my brilliance, fortitude, power, and god-like abilities. She is sometimes the life of the party, and both creates and drains a lot of energy.  

Diamond started to boast all the rhetoric in my head: I am a certified yoga teacher, this studio is my home, I’ve been practicing for years..yadda, yadda, yadda… (BTW, this is the same voice of bravado I hear when presented with a challenging task at work, when feelings of fear fill me, or when someone has tried to test me).  So I dug deep, bent my knees and tried to lower my hips towards the mat until my legs were parallel with the mat, and then tucked my tailbone.  Down I went like a tree in the forest.  

Down I went like a tree in the forest.

I had aggravated an existing, unknown, injury. After being in four car accidents, three of which occurred within 45 days of one another, the final (and I do mean final) one that totaled my Acura TL, my back had suffered unrealized trauma.  Yes, I was skittish in cars, especially in the passenger seat where I had no control, but I thought that was just nerves.

Turns out I had a bulging disc between two vertebrae in my spine, L4 and L5, and mild arthritis.  The bulging disc, when aggravated, would push onto my sciatic nerve and cause pain to go down the left side of my back, into my hip, all the way to my knee.

Turns out I had a bulging disc between two vertebrae in my spine, L4 and L5, and mild arthritis.  The bulging disc, when aggravated, would push onto my sciatic nerve and cause pain to go down the left side of my back, into my hip, all the way to my knee.  It was pure agony.

For the rest of the class staying on my mat was fairly easy, because I couldn’t move.  It took the next 80 minutes to 1) get over my ego / embarrassment 2) be able to sit up 3) be able to stand and walk out of the class. Yes, my accident happened 10 minutes into a 90-minute class, so I had to lay there surrounded by 40 other students and take care of myself.

This was a huge lesson for me of being on my own mat and a lesson to take with me off the mat.  

I cannot worry about where others are going in their journey, what they are doing, nor be envious of others journeys, and be true to myself.  I have to listen to my body – it tells me when it needs nurturing and when it needs endurance.

 I cannot worry about where others are going in their journey, what they are doing, nor be envious of others journeys, and be true to myself.  I have to listen to my body – it tells me when it needs nurturing and when it needs endurance. Working hard comes naturally to me, I had been struggling with knowing how to relax, and how to take care of myself.  Now due to my injury I must sit back, relax, and nurture myself.

This is a painful moment in my yoga practice to recall. So much of who I am was challenged in this one incident and throughout my healing. Doubts raced through my mind about my abilities as a yogi, a teacher, a professional woman, questions such as the following raced through my mind:

  • How can I be a good/great yoga teacher if I aggravate an existing injury while practicing yoga?
  • How can I be a professional woman, if I can’t go to work because I am injured?
  • How will my absence from work affect my career progression? Will I be penalized and my chances for promotion affected?
  • How can I ever show my face in the yoga studio again?

I’ll just tell you that dwelling on these thoughts was not useful for my healing.  The fact that I was home and the only contact I was having were with my chiropractor, acupuncturist, and orthopedic doctor made me feel all the more vulnerable and weak.  I wasn’t able to practice yoga for months, out of fear and pain.  I eventually became depressed and found help through therapy.  Today my back is much better and so is my psyche.  During the year or two following my injury, I could remember a handful of days that I didn’t feel pain in my back that would nearly bring me to tears. My career did suffer, I missed out on a promotion, but I learned that I get to choose the terms that define me and I am defined by more than my career, job title, years of yoga practice, or relationship status. I get to choose.  

If you’d like to learn how a consistent yoga practice can help you increase creativity, mental focus and clarity, and embrace your change, schedule a complimentary discovery call with me by clicking the link Work With Dafina to learn about my customized From Stress To Success 12-Week Yoga Program we will discover how my program can help you, your organization, or your corporation.

 

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