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On the Yoga DL

March 18, 2013


Patience can’t be acquired overnight. It is just like building up a muscle. Every day you need to work on it.      – Eknath Easwaran

I have been unable to practice yoga for a week due to a back injury (not from doing yoga), and it has been very difficult to sit on the sidelines and admit: I am on the DL – the disabled list, a bench warmer.

In baseball the DL is a tool for teams to rotate injured players from the roster so they can call up healthy players.  Unlike baseball where a player can be temporarily replaced – and despite my best efforts – no one can do my yoga for me.  (My teacher Sandy used to refer to herself as our “yoga slave” but I think she meant help with props, not becoming our yoga designee.)

As a regular yoga practitioner, being on the DL is rather difficult.  I am worried.  Will ever get back to where I was (as if that was so glorious)?  Will I lose the modest abilities I have worked so hard – sweated – to acquire? Will it hurt when I go back?  What if I can’t do yoga anymore?  All of these questions have been swirling around my (quite) medicated brain and causing no small amount of stress for the last week. Then I turn my head, pain shoots through my body and I forget about yoga, and yelp.

So what if, for now, being on the DL is my yoga? What if this time of rest and healing is the yoga I meant to be doing?  How would I approach the disability/inconvenience if that itself were my yoga practice? If I were to make a yogic commitment to the process of healing (including physical therapy thrice a week), how might I go about that?

First I would reframe this “brokenness” as opportunity. Instead of seeing this time as wasted, I might see it as an opportunity to rejuvenate – a kind of spa day with massive pain medication.  I can do what I can do; I cannot do what I cannot do.  The seven to 10 hours a week I put into yoga could be put into meditation, inspirational reading and just being.  Asanas are but one limb of the eight roots of yoga after all.

Second I would let go of what I could do last week and rest in what I can do this week.  There is an old Yiddish proverb: you are who you are, not who you were.  Last week I could do a decent standing bow; this week I cannot even reach down to pick up my foot, but I am rocking out in shivasana many hours a day.  I can visualize and I can breathe.

Finally, if this time of injury were my yoga, I might even try to go to class and simply be present on my mat with other practitioners as they do their practice.  Some of you know I regularly visit a Catholic monastery for prayer and respite.  When I am there and the monks pray the rosary (which as a non-Catholic it is not appropriate for me to say) each evening, I still attend but I see my function as being present to support the prayers of those who do say the rosary.  I pray for the prayers of others.

Perhaps before I can participate physically I will go, lay out my mat, prop up my knees and simply be present to prayerfully support the other yogis.  Perhaps even being the presence of practice has a value.  I can still breathe and keep my eyes open.

Then, someone can come and hoist me off the floor with a crane and I will be on my way.

By Rabbi Chava Bahle

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