“By your stumbling, the world is perfected.”
I twisted my ankle the other night and have been peevish about it all week. I spent every day with my foot propped up, working long hours at the computer, drinking an extra glass of wine at night, mostly skipping exercise, and avoiding the doctor until the end of the week–lured mainly by the prospect of a free crutch and a handicapped parking hangtag. The doctor gave me neither of those. Instead, he signed me up to work with a physical therapist who’d teach me balancing exercises.
I said, “I’m a certified yoga teacher. I know lots of balancing exercises.” He asked me which ones I’d been doing for it so far.
And it all got me thinking about my ego–the ego that kept me from attending my noon yoga class because I was feeling too wonky to do it well, and the ego that kept berating me for being weak and out of shape, and the ego that said I didn’t need to take time to consult a medical professional because I’d heal on my own (even though I was doing nothing to help myself heal).
I started reflecting on what the injury might have to teach me, which inspired me to consult my favorite oracle: the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art “send me” query–you text the number 572-51 with a request that begins “send me” and it responds with an artwork.
I tried “send me weakness” and it declined my request; I tried “send me stumble” and “send me clumsy” and “send me tripping” and “send me falling” and then “send me imbalance” and finally this:
So this is what it’s about, really.
The gift of a minor injury, especially during a hectic time, is the way it slows you down and forces you to pay attention to the present moment and to parts of yourself that you’ve been taking for granted.
So my ankle says it’s once again time to practice standing. To start my day honoring the fact that I can.
I’m putting together a short sequence of standing poses that I can do first thing in the morning and whenever I enter a private space to work or think.
It begins with a dynamic version of mountain pose that I learned from Baxter Bell:
Therapeutic Variation of Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
- Stand with feet parallel, hip distance apart, hands at your sides with fingers extended and awake.
- Evenly distribute your weight on each foot.
- Spread your toes and feel all parts of your feet rooting into the ground.
- Find a focal point to help you balance during this pose.
- Inhale and elevate slowly to the balls of your feet, raising your arms overhead.
- Exhale as you slowly descend, lowering your arms to your sides.
- Repeat six times, mindfully.
Dancers recognize this as a simple releve. As with so many things I did as a young dancer, I’m relearning the movement with new intentions. The yoga of this pose is its present-mindedness, its opportunity to practice gratitude and self-awareness for and in balance. My ankle injury is making me feel those things more acutely. Just in time for a new year of being.