This summer I found myself with a bad hip injury. I have had to face the very real fact that this hip injury is not going to get better. Physical therapy and a modified yoga practice have kept me moving. This fall I am diving back into choreographing and dancing. As an aging dancer, any illusions that my body would hold up to all the use and abuse forever have fully worn off. My third decade has begun to evolve as a time of taking care of my body, moving smarter, adapting through building new strength and movement patterns, and using all of that to continue to kick some serious butt.
My yoga practice bears the most noticeable changes three months into my injury. I have learned to really listen to my body. My ego doesn’t get to call the shots prodding me on to achieve poses at any cost. One wrong move and my hip will lock making it difficult, if not impossible, to continue flowing seamlessly from pose to pose. My favorite part of a yoga class used to be the standing and balancing poses. I could balance for days. Now, there are days I cannot balance on my left leg at all because it is too painful or too unstable. Most of my standing poses need to be shortened to protect my hip, leaving me with shorter stances that just don’t feel as powerful as they once did. While I still find myself mourning the ability to feel really strong and grounded in standing and balancing poses every time I come to my mat, I am discovering new things about myself. Suddenly arm balances, poses that were completely inaccessible to me when I first started regularly practicing yoga, feel effortless. More often than not I find myself falling out of an arm balance because I am so shocked I have been holding the pose steadily for several deep breaths. My body craves inversions, which brought me to tears when I first started practicing yoga (it took years for me to turn my world upside down without freaking out). My yoga practice feels brand new, filled with surprises, infused with new energy. My body is still strong and grounded – just not in the same way it once was.
My hip injury has allowed me to tap into strength I did not know I possessed, literally and figuratively. I work with a lot of students who come to yoga because of injuries. I watch these students tune in to what they can do, accessing strength and courage to face themselves and their injuries with compassion. These students inspire me as they step onto their mats day after day. It is easy to view what can no longer be done with an injury. It is easy to get sucked into the pain and frustration, physical and emotional. However, underneath all of that lies a treasure trove of lessons and insights…if we can be brave enough to dig deep. I have learned that when I let go of what was and fully embrace what is I am face to face with amazing things I was too preoccupied to notice. Everything changes, including the human body. While the changes I am facing still feel really hard I am learning to approach my movement with curiosity, letting go of assumptions and muscle memory to uncover what I can do, as opposed to what I think I can do, or what I want to do. It is a journey into unchartered waters…at times exciting, at times scary, but a journey that must be taken nonetheless.