I recently discovered an unpublished article from July 2017. I wrote it the night before the first- of two- quite complex knee surgeries. Hindsight is a wonderful thing as I can now see how much I have learnt from the experience. In fact, I am truly grateful for that year on crutches, not simply because of the wonders it has worked on my knees but also for the way it changed me personally. The surgery forced me to physically and mentally slow down and enabled me to see all the great stuff going on my life, right now. Instead of chasing tomorrow, I’ve learnt to enjoy living in today. I hope that this past-self insight shows you how life’s crappy situations can- in fact- bring us so much unexpected joy. This wasn’t my Plan A but as it turned out, Plan B was so much better than I ever could have dreamed!
21st July 2017:
Tomorrow I’m having more knee surgery (stem cell cartilage regeneration), which is both a blessing and a curse. I am incredibly thankful that something can be done. Grateful that the NHS provides this groundbreaking operation- for free. And humbled by my nearest and dearest who have offered so much love and support.
Yet I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. No walking for a week and then restricted movement for a good month. Which not only affects my personal life- a life made up of Sunday cycles, sun salutations and always another sporting goal- but my professional life too: I am a yoga teacher and my body is my toolkit. So I am currently cursing my career choices and wishing I had two normal knees not comprised by cartilage defects (once the left knee is functioning I will have to go back for round two with the right!). And on a more trivial note, I am worried that I will turn into a whale after a week without power walking around the city! (Yes I am that person who refuses to stand on the escalator. I always walk to the top!)
The fear that has arisen in the lead up to the operation has made me aware of how much I focus on the physical. Which surprised me because I am always banging on about how yoga has become commercialised, concentrating solely on the aesthetics, Instagram shots and ego poses. I tell students “It’s not what it looks like, it’s what it feels like” and yet I realise that I am also really attached to the aesthetics of yoga: the pose, the practitioner and how good my bum looks in leggings! I have certainly recognised the not-so-healthy side of my ego rear its ugly head in some competitive classes (handstand workshops almost always put me into compare/contrast mode!) But I didn’t realise the extent to which Yoga Asana has dominated my definition of Yoga. My understanding of yoga has become synonymous with taking classes, doing postures and working hard and I have focused most of my time and energy on Yoga Asana (the physical practice). As a result I have neglected the other 5 branches of yoga: Raja Yoga (meditation and contemplation), Bhakti Yoga (devotion), Jnana Yoga (study), Karma Yoga (selfless action) and Mantra Yoga (chanting and singing).
So perhaps a pause on the physical is exactly what I need. It will certainly give me time to plough through the yoga books collecting dust in my ‘to read’ box. And I hope it might help me to see the bigger picture, because yoga is for everyone. It’s not just for limber dancers: it’s for grandparents and babies, fathers and daughters, students and city-workers. It doesn't matter whether you are fit or fat, rich or poor, strong or weak- yoga is accessible for all. So whilst I might not be able to do a chaturanga for a few weeks I’m sure I can develop a class for crutches (watch this space!)
2018 Update: As you can see...I did manage to create a post-op practice which for me, my knees and aided my recovery. In fact, it helped me to access a whole other dimension of the practice! More of which to follow...