In the beginning of my yoga practice, when I was putting more and more time on my mat and experiencing different styles of yoga with different teachers, I remember periodically hearing teachers mention that they had an injury or couldn’t do a certain pose (for whatever reason). *GASP* I’ll be honest, I was surprised when they would admit this to the class! I mean, shouldn’t a knowledgable and experienced yoga teacher know perfect alignment in order to avoid injury altogether? If they injure themselves does that mean that I will get hurt? Shouldn’t they be perfect in every way so that they can help ME become perfect in my yoga practice?! And shouldn’t they be so amazingly experienced that they can do every freaking pose under the sun? *Sigh* These are things that I have heard throughout my years in the yoga community and unfortunately I used to fall prey to these judgments myself.
Flash forward to today and I have been practicing and studying yoga for 13 years and teaching for 8 of those years. In my time on the mat I have fallen on my head, slipped out of a pose because of sweaty arms and landed on my face, pulled muscles, tweaked shoulders, dislocated ribs, landed too hard on my toes during jump backs (just a few months ago, actually!!), dislocated my elbows, and I have even worked myself to the point of physical and mental exhaustion - essentially overdoing my whole practice to the point of “burn out”. We all have a story and we all have a journey.
I am truthfully very grateful for an injury because I know that when something happens it shows up to be my teacher. And do you know what each one of those experiences has given me? Perspective, patience, compassion, frustration, determination, strength and above all GROWTH! Like a child learns to walk by stumbling, falling and getting back up, we have to fall sometimes in order to really grow. Each one of my injuries and obstacles has made me a better and more compassionate yoga teacher. Even those 4ish months that I wasn’t able to get on my mat during my second pregnancy (for pre-term labor monitoring) were months of growth as I learned to communicate more effectively in the yoga room without relying on my body as my only instrument. And sure, the injuries are very far and few between these days but sometimes we have to be willing to risk a fall in order to learn to fly!
Looking back, now knowing what I know, I am grateful that those teachers were open with the class instead of hiding their injury in fear of being judged. Now, are there times when we are a bit embarrassed by an injury and would like to keep it to ourselves? Sure! Are there things that happen to us and in our lives that we don’t need to broadcast to our students? Of course. The more open and communicative we are, and the more honest we can be with ourselves and our students, the stronger the foundation of trust becomes. We promote a stronger basis of understanding that we are all HUMAN BEINGS and perfection should not be our goal; humanness should be! I am no where near perfect and I know that none of my teachers (current or past) are perfect either. When I allowed myself to start seeing my teachers as people I found I was able to learn more from them because my heart was open and my mind was free of judgements and paradigms.
Yoga teachers hurt themselves sometimes, YES! It doesn’t make us any less of an amazing teacher, does it? An injury doesn't define us or our ability to lead and guide a great class or take care of our students in a loving and mindful way! I remember recently hearing about Kino MacGreggor’s hip injury and it seems like the yoga community was so quick to jump on her case - accusing her of promoting inappropriate poses that put the hip joint in an unnatural state of flexibility. She says she hurt it while assisting a student that accidentally fell on her. The truth of the matter is that she is human and even though she is a famous yoga teacher doesn’t mean she can never ever get hurt! Come on now, let’s be realistic!
So the next time you get hurt, look to it for guidance and growth. The next time your yoga teacher admits to being hurt or not able to do a pose, know that they are a student just as you are. We are all learning something here in this life. I love the saying (forgive me I cannot remember who said this, if you know, please feel free to comment!) “Do not compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20.” This quote has helped me on my mat and in my life in more ways than one. Our path is unique to us and nobody else. Patience, practice & persistence.
My hope is that we can enjoy the journey and embrace our challenges together. Lift yourself up instead of tear yourself down. Lift each other up instead of tear each other down!