I teach a fun and fast paced power flow class every Saturday morning. There isn’t anything we won’t try, all with the emphasis on the balance between stability and freedom. This morning, student after student came in with numerous injuries: shoulders, knees, necks, hamstrings, low backs. Being a Yoga therapist, I had a mini freak out in my head as all these injuries layered in on top of one another. I questioned just how this practice might pan out with so many diverse concerns. My intention in teaching is that each practitioner walk out feeling better than they did when they came in or they have learned something about themselves, their practice or their patterns. Maybe both. I was in for it and had a fair amount of tension in my own body that brought me to reckon with the opportunity of such a class.
Then, as often the angel of Yoga does, I was reminded that injuries aren’t bad. Injuries are inherently imbalances that teach us where and what is imbalanced. Usually, they do this in the form of alarming pain, which we naturally resist and want to avoid. Suddenly, the fear of facilitating a class that addressed numerous injuries transformed into the opportunity to embrace all the injuries as teachers, friends even. I welcomed the students to see where in their bodies, breaths or minds, they were struggling or facing some sort of pain. Like a good friend, sit with the pain for a bit and see what it wants to say. The injury’s job isn’t to hurt us; it is to alert us to what needs to change. Upon working with many of the conditions present in the practitioners, under the scope of “Injury as Teacher,” a beautiful thing happened. The uncertainty and fear of the injuries were softened. People who had come in with pain on their faces had started to smile, shine even. The pain, while still present perhaps, was not a threat. It was a friend who cared so much about our well being that it asked us to pay attention and return to balance. It asked us to be kind to ourselves. It was asking us to embrace everything at our disposal as a way to return to wholeness, including our pains and that which we would push away. Beautiful injury – what a concept.
And, it worked because we worked it. The attitudes of trepidation were shifted to attitudes of friendship. There is, after all, nothing to fear. When we can replace our reactions of dread with choices to connect, we find our lives much better for it. As Rilke said: “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” Now, I like that, and I hope that that the students who courageously stepped up to sit with their injuries today found they walked out feeling better for having done so. If nothing else, perhaps some of us learned we could all stand to shift the paradigm.