Ego, ahimsa, etc.

When it rains, it pours. And sometimes that’s your own doing.

A couple of weeks ago, I rolled my ankle pretty badly while doing some acro. I fell out of a pose in a washing machine and landed with my ankle rolled. At the time, I didn’t think too much of it. It hurt, but I could walk, so I figured I’d be fine. After all, it’s not like I haven’t rolled my ankle before. (I used to wear heels everyday and walk on uneven pavement. Combine that with a natural klutziness and, well, you get the idea.)

The washing machine I was doing was one I hadn’t done in quite some time. Moreover, I was doing it on my weaker side. Had I done it on my stronger side? No. I just decided to jump right in.

Oh, hello, ego.

By the next day, I realized my ankle was worse than I thought. But I still had to teach two classes that Saturday, so I did, trying to be careful about the weight I put on my ankle and the postures I demonstrated. If I could, I was keeping my ankle elevated and iced. I skipped practicing yoga on Sunday and Monday to give it a chance to rest. All the things I should be doing, right?

Last Tuesday, I was feeling better, so I decided to go to the Buddhi Flow class at 5:30 p.m. with Carolina. As a general note, I’m good about taking days off to heal. What I’m not good at is easing back into things (as evidenced by the initial injury.) But that day, I was mindful of my ankle and resolved not to overdo it on standing balancing postures or anything else that might compromise the healing process. And for the most part, I did, but I was so focused on my ankle that I forgot other parts of my body. I was so careful not to put any additional pressure on my ankle, but I did not exercise the same caution with my wrists and hands, in large part because I was just so eager to do something that I then overdid arm balances and inversions.

Ego, my old friend.

By the end of class, I was sore. Within the next few days, I realized that not only did my wrists hurt, but I had somehow jammed or strained one of my fingers. (Hence, the above photo.) I’m constantly accidentally still twisting that finger and putting pressure on it, just by doing normal things, which is making recovery agonizingly slow for me. It also doesn’t help that, in my day job, I do a lot of typing.

What did I learn from all this?

  1. No matter how long you’ve been practicing, no matter how advanced your practice, you can still be prone to the same beginner mistakes. In my case, I’m usually so diligent about where I’m putting pressure and weight in my hands because I’m prone to tendonitis in my wrists. Yet in that one class, I forgot all of my precautions in my desire to feel like I could do something.
  2. Ahimsa, ahimsa, ahimsa! Non-violence. Toward yourself. Take care of your body. Let your body rest. Listen to it. If you don’t, it will force you to. You hear teachers say this all the time, but we all can still make this mistake.
  3. Always keep ice packs in your house.
  4. It’s a constant battle against ego, even when you don’t recognize it as such. I thought it just felt good to get on my hands, since I couldn’t do much on my feet. It felt good to be able to do something. But really, it felt good to be able to “do something.” As in, I want to do things, let me do things, I don’t care about the results. Let me feel pretty and accomplished! Ego exists in all of us. I’m not going to say you should never want to feel proud or that you should never want to be admired. It’s natural to feel that way. But, as I learned over the past week and a half, when ego takes over and trumps mindfulness, the results usually aren’t good.

So, in sum, be mindful of your body and its limitations, even when you don’t want to acknowledge them. Take care of yourself, even if it means not doing things you want to be doing. A small voluntary break or step back early on can prevent a longer, involuntary break later.

And seriously, self, try not to overdo things. Please? I’ll help you out with that.