Recently, I’ve sustained an injury to my back and neck. Luckily, nothing serious, but it has hindered my daily yoga practice, and frustratingly so. Just as any avid yogi or yogini would tell you, the time I spend on the mat each day is immensely important to my sanity. It’s my exercise and my moment of daily relaxation. It’s my meditation, a much needed break from the whirlwind of my thoughts. Simply put, not being able to practice is driving me nuts.
A few years ago, when I first began to truly take my practice seriously, I learned that the asanas are only one of Patanjali’s eight yogic limbs, which is a fancy way to say that yoga is a way of life—that the postures we so focus on are but the first page of a massive volume, an ancient self-help guide of sorts. With this in mind, I’ve come to see my injury as a gift, an annoyingly painful call to delve deeper into the nitty-gritty of this thing I so love. So, instead of lazing about the house as was suggested to me by an ER physician, I’ve gone in search of yoga in all its other miraculous forms. Just as with the asanas, this is a practice, a work in progress.
That said, here’s what I’ve learned so far…
1. Go outside.
Take a walk. Wander until your feet hurt or the sun sets, or both. Turn off your mind and let your feet carry you. A yoga teacher once told me that yoga is unity: the marriage of body and spirit, of movement and mindfulness, of anything, really. So, with each step, take note of your breath and its qualities, or simply bring awareness to the place your skin ends and the world begins. Acknowledge your meandering thoughts, but let them pass without you. Above all else, leave your phone at home along with your claustrophobia, and without its weight in your pocket, feel yourself floating.
2. Bring a book.
Plop down in the grass and read. It might itch, but let that nagging fade away. Listen to the wind-chime-whisper of the birds, to the thrush of wind as it crashes like a wave upon each tree. A million leaves are dancing and sun-drenched and translucent—pulsing with their very life, just beyond your reach.
3. Take a nap.
When you wake up, be okay not knowing the time. In fact, be grateful that you’ve escaped the hurried world of clocks and obligation. When you get hungry, eat a salad or a smoothie. Anything straight from the earth will be sure to make you feel rejuvenated, alive.
4. Get some rest.
Understand you are recovering, and don’t judge yourself during that process. If you really can’t help yourself, go to a vinyasa even if only to hold child’s pose for the duration of a class. Your body will tell you what it needs, so listen to it!
5. Embrace & reflect.
Finally, once you’ve recovered, know that life is a practice, and as such there will always be another stone in the path, some new obstacle to overcome. Embrace these challenges! Flow through them as you would any asana, with ease and awareness. And, most importantly, keep breathing through it all.