Last week in the middle of yoga class the instructor led the group into child’s pose. For those of you who are not yoga practitioners, child’s pose is a pose of restfulness. It’s where you go when things get to be a bit too much and you need to re-establish your mind or your breath or your body. Child’s pose is a sanctuary. It’s supposed to feel good.
Since tearing five of the six known ligaments in my knees over the past three years, child’s pose has been the last place I go to feel restful or to re-establish whatever needs re-establishing. It hurts like hell. One or both knees would start screaming, calling an APB on my hamstrings and calves, then my hips would get all nervous, my breath would get shallow, my heart rate elevated…which is all well and good if you are fleeing a bear or having sex, I suppose, but hardly the desired outcome from a restorative yoga posture. But last week, almost without being aware, I bent my knees, rested my forehead on the mat and came into a posture that was very close to child’s pose.
Taking stock of where I was physically and emotionally at that particular point in time, I marveled that my yoga practice has been a fairly good bellwether of the trajectory of my life. I have, over the years, learned to accept the wobbles and teeters in balancing postures, knowing that what is going on in my head is reflected in my feet; I know that the days I least want to practice are the days that I need practice the most; I have accepted that sometimes it’s OK to spend the entire class sacked out in corpse pose, but my recent injuries have sent me into a new dimension of confusion and resistance.
Painful and unfamiliar, my knees have mirrored a time in my life that has been full of uncertainty and frustration. There was no sanctuary in my mind or on my mat. Unexpected pain would flare up, seemingly out of nowhere. One day I would be strong and flexible, the next, so tightly wound that no amount of modification would get me to a familiar place. I fought my knee injuries and they fought back. The more I struggled with the challenges in my life, the more knotted up I became.
Resistance is exhausting, and eventually overcome by physical and emotional fatigue, I began to let go of wishing that I were in another place, or that things were different, and went with the flow. I began to modify familiar postures to accommodate my changed physicality. I let my mind accept that mistakes are part of growing, and stopped berating myself for not being perfect. One day not too long ago, I noticed that tree pose felt not only good, but normal. Soon after, I didn’t need a block to support me in pigeon. Yoga postures began to feel safe – good – again. As my knees became more stable, so did my life. Or was it the other way around?
Coming out of child’s pose last week, my initial thought was “I made it! I’m back where I started.” But I’m not, really. You’re never really the same once you have been physically or emotionally injured. You’re different, and whether that is positive depends on your attitude. Maybe in those circumstances success is measured by how easily you can find your place of sanctuary.
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