“Help, I’m a yoga teacher, and I can’t bend forward!”

pain Last April, I hurt my back. I had been spending hours and hours each week driving around Ohio teaching and my back started to hurt a little bit. So, I got some bodywork done by someone I didn’t know that well (and who didn’t understand my body that well) and went to class right after. During separate leg head to knee, I heard and felt something go “pop” in my back and then I couldn’t move. For the rest of class I just had to lie on the floor…hurting and scared.

I felt like the Def Leppard drummer who lost his arm (hopefully some of you are old enough to get that reference!). I really thought I wouldn’t be able to do yoga anymore. Maybe I wouldn’t even be able to teach yoga anymore…and I was days away from going to Norway to teach for a month!

I went back to yoga the next day. I won’t lie; it was so hard to go back in the room. I was in a lot of pain, I was upset and I was angry. For about three months, I could barely bend forward. Some days I would just sit on the floor during class and cry. I kept teaching (and made it to Norway), but I felt like I wasn’t doing a good job. I used to love demonstrating standing head to knee pose – but I could barely lift my foot off the floor!

After many months of struggle and trying everything on my own (no yoga, lots of yoga, Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, heat, ice, rest, etc.), I knew I had to find some help. I was really hesitant to trust anyone with my spine again. But, I did some research, and was able to find someone who understood my spine, and what I needed my body to be able to do. She diagnosed a problem with my sacro-iliac joint (the joint that connects your spine into your pelvis) and together we worked out a program of adjustments, massage and physical therapy to get it back in shape.

During this time, I had to modify a lot of my postures. I turned to one of my yoga mentors, Michele Pernetta, who has a great video on back pain in yoga (and one on knee pain if you are interested). It was incredibly frustrating to modify postures, particularly the ones I had already worked so hard for so many years to master. But, with every month, I was able to do more and more, and now, over a year later, its pretty much back to normal!

As Emmy says, “pain is a priceless gift”. I didn’t want to get an injury; I certainly didn’t want to be in pain for over a year. But, my injury taught me some amazing lessons. I am more patient with my practice and with myself. I pay more attention to my breath and alignment in postures (rather than worrying about how they look to others). And most importantly, I have a personal understanding of pain and injury - so I can help my students work through the same.

Remember, if you have an injury, always talk to a medical professional. Know that the staff at Bikram Yoga Cincinnati will work with you and support you however we can. Injuries happen to the best of us, but know that with patience and time, you can and you will get through it!

Love & light,
M

Confessions of an Imperfect Yogi

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The Real Me

You might think “Confessions of an Imperfect Yogi” is a strange title for a blog, especially for a yoga teacher and now studio owner (!), but it feels right to me.  I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect yogi, but I am quite sure I am not it.   I do love my yoga practice, but sometimes (OK, lots of times) I still have to drag myself to class. I try to eat healthy, but there are days when I am running on a steady diet of caffeine and sugar. I talk about not letting anything steal your peace, but I start cursing like a sailor when I get stuck in traffic…the list goes on and on.

The thing I struggle with the most is the idea that I am a yoga teacher, so I SHOULD be healthier, skinner, more patient, more kind; I SHOULD be able to do impossible yoga poses, and look good doing them; I SHOULD only eat organic, raw, sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, etc. etc… In other words, I SHOULD be “perfect”.

A few months back, Josie posted a Ted Talk video of Brene Brown, a researcher on vulnerability, courage and worthiness.  It was such a great video, that I ran out and got her book “Daring Greatly”.  In it, she has a lot to say about how perfectionism, instead of helping us, actually stands in the way of joy, success and “wholeheartedness”:

“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence.  Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth.  Perfectionism is a defensive move.  It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame.  Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen.”

So, in an effort to be more “seen,” I wanted to share this video with all of you.

This is me, competing at the 2013 Georgia Regional Yoga Competition.   The thing about this video is that I’ve never shared it before….never posted it on Facebook, never sent the link to my friends, nothing.  Why?  Because I didn’t think it was “perfect” enough to even consider sharing. When I watched this video the first time, almost all my thoughts were negative… my leg is too high in Standing Head to Knee…I almost fall out of Standing Bow Pulling…the headstand is not perfectly symmetrical….holy cow I look terrible in a leotard…and so on.


But, what I am trying to focus on now is the fact that I came in second place that day, the crowd goes wild at the end, and I should be so proud that I got up on a terrifying stage in an even more terrifying outfit and did the best I could with what I had that day, in that moment.  And it was pretty awesome.


So, with all that in mind, I have adopted a new mission statement.  One that I can turn to when all those “SHOULDs” get in my way, and one that I can hopefully instill for our yoga studio and yoga community. 

Here it is:

You don’t have to be perfect.

Be who you are.

Try your best.

Do what you can.

Love what you’ve got.

 

Can’t wait to see you all at the studio.

M