25 Sep 2013

Teaching Through Injury

The amount of posts I've read about everyone practicing through injury, the slow road to recovery.  Well teaching through an injury is a bit of a  practice too.

It's been two months since my surgery.  Still have a slight limp, can almost fully extend my knee, but flexing has a long way to go yet.  I have lost 5cms of muscle on the injured leg, it's horribly skinny.  I had no idea it would take so long, and such a toll on my body.  A very simple operation, but admittedly it was  in the slightly more serious category of simple operations.  Medial and lateral meniscus were trimmed after my knee locking well and proper.

I want to talk about teaching it is a bag of mixed blessings.  Something I love to do, find so rewarding, enjoyable, inspiring and supportive, and yet at times wish I could just selfishly channel all my energy into my own practice. But then, perhaps without the community my practice would fade away to nothing.

I took a month off teaching after surgery, naively thinking that after a WHOLE month I would return fighting fit.  The days ticked by, and I was still in no state to walk, let alone do anything akin to an ashtanga practice (yes, yes, what is an ashtanga practice, am talking orthodox asana sequence here).

The day came when I had to show up to my first class after a month off.  I felt like a child being dragged to school on their first day.  Scared, not ready to go yet.  I had thoroughly enjoyed 'me time' reading, doing the physio exercises, trips to the pool, naps up the mountains and books, books galore.  Getting lost in The Upanishads, enjoying the luxury of endless time to ponder it all.  Before class I'd wanted to cry and say I quit.  I really don't know what had gotten into me.  I guess I've always been strong, and to suddenly be so weak threw me.

It felt strange to be sat in the hall, ice bag on knee, waiting for people to show up. And show up they did.  One by one they came, my strange mood and reluctance disappeared with every smiling face and kind word.  Class was beautiful.  The energy was strong.  Despite my slow pace and limp I could teach.

So much gratitude to those that showed up that evening.

It was the first time to be on my feet for so long, there was a little pain, more ice and worry how I would make it for the next week and there after.

A month of class has passed now.  I made it.

The pain gets less and less, the need for icing slowly disappearing.  Yet the limp it is still there. Sometimes it is very frustrating not to just be able to show someone how to do something, often there is another student around who can help, but at other times, there isn't.  Certain adjustments have to be adapted. I really didn't appreciate how much I used my body in class. It was all so natural.

It is hard, and joyful, watching everyone around me so strong, working so hard, their practice developing week by week.  Yes, my knee is improving, but the road ahead is long.  I am eager to heal, so eager. But for now it's time that needs to do it's work.  As it does with practice.  We can only do so much, the rest is up to time.

Patience. Perseverance. Practice.

Last week saw two students finally drop back and stand up, another finish primary, the triumphs! As for me...ha ha well my knee is nearly straight!  I am duly inspired by the people in class.
I cannot wait to be able get my strong legs back!

It also takes energy to recover, I tire so easily, both because of the healing,  and the loss of muscle. Yet, I have developed a deeper sense of empathy for those weaker than me, those who are suffering and in pain.  Every painful experience in life teaches us to be more human, and to be grateful when we are strong.  I notice people limping and moving with difficulty more than before and send them support.

It's the end of summer here, and people's thoughts are turning towards winter and all that brings with it.  For me, this means snowboarding.  I have some hard work to do if I want to ride this winter.

For now though, I have a very individualised practice, simple, combined with the physio moves.  It feels great. The pool is also a big part of my life now, and I intend to keep it so.  It's like the simplest form of yoga.  Stretch, pull, kick, glide, breathing deep,  slow, and steady, engaging uddiyana bandha and counting the laps.