Hello and Happy Monday,
I love learning and I am the type of person that always is looking for the “why”. Yesterday a friend reminded me that not everyone wants to know their why. It has had me thinking since she said it. While in the past I would have spent a lot of time analyzing why and what makes us different, I decided that the next time I encounter someone that appears to not want to know their why to have a conversation. In the meantime, all I can do is focus on why knowing my why is important.
Last week I wrote about my back pain – unfortunately, it’s not been the only pain or injury I have incurred from life. Since our focus is on asana, I’ll stick with yoga injuries. A few years ago, I wanted to get back into a deep pigeon. When I started yoga in my 20s I was able to reach my hands over my head to hold my foot and bring it to the back of my head. While that would have been fun to revisit, I wasn’t so focused on that part of the posture, instead, my focus was getting my hips low enough to touch the floor. I was also very focused on getting a front split at the time and the two went together well. I practiced daily on gaining more flexibility in my hips. After about 6 months, I was in front splits and my hips touched the floor in pigeon. I was happy, mostly because I felt strong in the postures and could easily revisit them every time I came to my mat. About a year or two later I started to experience a burning sensation in my left hip. I was seeing a physical therapist at the time to help with a pulled hamstring, which took over 6 months to heal and to help with my psoas muscle. She looked at my hip and suggested getting an MRI. The MRI revealed I had a slight tear in my hip labrum. I knew it was all the pigeon and splits I was doing. I started researching what all this meant and how and why it happened and how to fix it. I spoke with many experienced yoga teachers and while we laughed at all our injuries, we also were saying that if we didn’t change the way we taught yoga we could be leading others down the path of injuries too. After many months of research, advise from experienced teachers, and deep reflection I stopped practicing pigeon and teaching it. I was terrified I would lose students as I dropped pigeon and other postures from my classes and started focusing on strengthening the hips and shoulders and knees. I felt that with pigeon pose done in just about every single yoga class (mostly at the places I was teaching) that I didn’t need to add it also. That, that particular posture didn’t need to be done several times a week for long periods of time – after all that’s how I was injured. I communicated this to my classes in hopes that those attending would become more aware of what is happening with their own bodies. To find out why they practice the postures they do, and why *most practitioners like pigeon so much, beyond “it feels so good”.
Then, last year, I had an opportunity to meet one-on-one with a “master teacher”. This teacher has been practicing and teaching yoga for over 40 years, and is well respected and well known in the yoga community. I was excited to sit down and learn and ask all about the psoas and hips and my teaching style. Our meeting was wonderful, better than I could have imagined. So many nuggets of information and one of the best pieces of advice. I brought up my hip and how I stopped teaching pigeon and how I was hoping to help others from getting injured. Without mincing words, this “master teacher” said, (and I paraphrase) “So you are going to save others from an injury you got in your body from a posture that maybe isn’t great for you?” I immediately laughed, because I hadn’t thought of it that way and at that moment realized that no – no, I could not save anyone from injuring themselves in yoga.
I left that meeting excited to work – to find out more information on the hips and anatomy to better provide for my classes. It turns out that my targeted research kept me from seeing the entire picture. As I researched I was finding validation for my concerns and how I could only do so much when leading a classroom of practitioners. I was reminded that my style of teaching is not fixed and neither am I, I’m an ever-evolving learning being.
I’m sure you will agree you are also not fixed but instead, ever-evolving and changing and learning and growing. And my why – part of why I experience what I do is so I can share and that maybe I can help someone else with my stories. I’m happy to be on this path with you!