Ok, so I am a liar. My ceiling told me so while I was staring at it at 3am last night.
In a response to the now notorious article in the NY Times about how yoga can wreck your body, I retorted that a yoga practice devoid of awareness—like the ones proliferated in studio capitalism around the globe—is bound to create injury. And then I did it. I lied. Not intentionally, mind you, but lied nonetheless. I said that through awareness we can avoid yoga injury. And it is not true—because injury happens. And no matter how aware we are, there is always something that we do not see—ALWAYS. We are never fully conscious of everything stirring in and around us. Just as we catch a glimpse of the nuances of the moment, the moment changes, and reality expands, yet again just beyond our capacity to know it. This is how evolution happens. If, at some point, we could become aware of the whole kit and caboodle, the need to grow and expand consciousness would end. Being on the edge of new knowledge is what drives the unfolding of the cosmos, as Robert M. Pirsig suggests “a God knowing everything would die of boredom”.*
It is quite reasonable to say that awareness in yoga is essential to reducing injury, and the more conscious we become, the more able we are to notice subtle sensations that may be the start of strain. But, it is impossible to avoid injury altogether. Just when I think I have mastered a pose, and think I can hear every whisper of the body, up jumps a new sensation, new information, new knowledge about myself and the pose that I have not heard before. And this new knowledge just might pop up in the form of a muscle pull, a pop in a joint or an overworked sacrum. Hopefully, with deepening awareness, less and less harm is done. But guess what? No one is a jerk if they pull a hammie or end up too sore to do practice for a couple of days—it is just that there is more to see. And I think that is neat. An endless degree of intimacy with oneself is possible, ever deepening, ever expanding.
Seeing it this way means not putting ourselves in the “I am so aware I have never been injured” category, instead of the “oh, you’ve been injured doing yoga, so you must be an unconscious schlepp” category. It is easy to do that—create a duality—and I see it happening through the numerous blog responses out there reacting to the NY article. But it is more fluid than that. Fluidity—is it not what we begin to see on the mat—life’s fluid, dynamic nature? Every day my level of consciousness fluctuates. On some days, I am lucid, grounded, and aware of the tiniest nuances within—and on other days, I am as dense as a black hole. And if my poor body has the unfortunate experience of being “yoga-ed” on one of those days, then some little “pinch” is bound to show up. But here is the great thing: Instead of berating myself for “schlepping” through my practice, instead of thinking myself as “less than” those gurus who have never had a black hole “mini-wreckage”, I can say “Ahhhh, how wonderful. There is still more to see…”
* From Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Pam Moskie has been cursed and blessed by the insatiable desire to understand our place in the cosmos. At a very young age, this desire blossomed into spiritual expedition, which has led her through both bliss and lunacy to an inner landscape she now comfortably calls Home. This trek through the muck and wonder of the human condition informs her teaching of yoga. She is a writer and Master’s student, and her blog can be found here.
This article was prepared by Assistant Yoga Editor, Soumyajeet Chattaraj.