Adding Ego to Injury. ~ Lauren Huefner

Via on May 10, 2013

120509_120508_YogaLife_Class_2

“High plank. Low plank. Upward facing dog. Downward facing dog.”

I was taking a class at a yoga studio that I hadn’t been to before, and the instructor was shouting out poses like a perky drill sergeant as sweat dripped from foreheads and noses, making puddles on yoga mats and filling the room with a musky humidity.

Still, I’d taken a few weeks off from intense yoga after hurting my shoulder rock climbing, and it felt good to be back in a hot studio.

“High plank. Low plank. Up dog. Down dog.”

This was the kind of studio where almost every yogi comes dressed in Lululemon from tights to tank to headband, and pops into handstand at every available opportunity. Like their feet just won’t stay on the ground.

Basically, it was the kind of place that makes me nervous and tends to get my defenses up.

“But everyone is here to do yoga,” I reminded myself, “No one cares that you have a hole in your on-sale TJ Maxx yoga pants.”

“Hi. Low. Up. Down.”

The perky drill sergeant’s commands became terse as we cycled through endless sun salutations. My shoulder was starting to feel sore, but no one else was backing off, so I kept at it. I might not have Lulu, but I do have a lovely Chaturanga.

By the time we made it to the wheel series, I knew I’d overworked my shoulder. A sharp pain stung the top of the joint when I extended it, pushing up into wheel. Finally, I backed down into bridge pose.

Ego is a funny thing. It’s easy to recognize it everywhere but in yourself. The guy next to me whose Ujjayi breath had turned into a series of grunts as he torqued his body to bind in extended side angle? Total egomaniac, right?

The woman in front of me who was straining for the floor in Trikonasana? Girl, touching those toes won’t bring you any closer to enlightenment.

I never thought of my ability to pump out vinyasas, or to bend backward like a cheerleader into Urdhva Dhanurasana, wheel pose, as something that defined me. They’re just something I can do. Achievements made so long ago that now they feel as natural as running or jumping.

And yet here I was, pushing through the pain rather than accepting my injury and backing off. Accepting that some yoga poses I could usually do were not going to happen right now.

I’ve practiced yoga regularly for five years. I’ve been through yoga teacher training and have students of my own. I consider myself fairly well-versed in yoga asana and philosophy.

But here was this huge, un-yogic ego wad that had been hiding in my subconscious unaddressed.

I knew that taking every vinyasa in that power class—or even just a few—was going to do more harm than help. I knew that hyperextending my shoulder into wheel pose was going to hurt. But here I was trying everything. Just testing it out to see how much damage I would really do if I kept going. Trying to find my edge by jumping over it and then hoping I’d be able to crawl back.

Ego is a funny thing. Of course I’d never push one of my yoga students to work through an injury the way I was trying to, and I wouldn’t feel like a very good yoga teacher if I knew a student was doing what I was. If one of my friends told me that they had same injury I did, my advice would be to rest your shoulder. Which, incidentally, was what all my friends were telling me.

It wasn’t until I realized that the “advice” I was giving myself was pretty much the exact opposite of what I would tell a student or friend in my situation, that I allowed myself to back off in my yoga practice.

“You are your best teacher,” is a platitude that gets tossed around yoga classes frequently. But a lot of the time, it’s hard to decide which voice is the one trying to teach you something. Especially when your ego is operating in “what-doesn’t-kill-you” mode and we’re so often encouraged to suppress the voice asking for a break.

How often do we push ourselves through unhealthy situations—physically, emotionally, in our careers, in our relationships—because our ego says that giving up would be weak? Because the ego assumes “giving up” and “letting go” are the same?

I wish I could give an easy formula for determining whether something is worth struggling for, or if it’s time to stop listing to your loudmouth ego, let go, back off and surrender.

It would make my life a lot easier.

I think knowing that there’s a difference between “giving up” and “letting go” is a good first step. So is starting to recognize your own habits. When a yoga pose starts feeling uncomfortable do you jump out at the first twinge of a muscle tiring? Or, do you grit your teeth and push through until something breaks?

Clearly, I lean toward the latter. Since I recognized my own nasty little ego habit, I’ve realized that a lot of times what I’d been calling “tenacity” was “desperate clinging” at best, and “emotional masochism” at worst.

Ego is a funny thing. And it’s even funnier what happens when you let go, listen to it a little less, and listen to the softer, quieter voice saying “help” a little more: You start to heal.

 

Lauren HuefnerLauren Huefner is a yoga teacher, rock climber and aspiring writer living in Northeast Ohio. She’s always looking for new opportunities and her next big adventure. Get in touch at lhuefner@gmail.com.

 

 

Like elephant Yoga on Facebook.

 

Ed: Terri Tremblett & Brianna Bemel

About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of elephantjournal.com. Questions? info elephantjournal com

1,480 views

10 Responses to “Adding Ego to Injury. ~ Lauren Huefner”

  1. Renee says:

    Boy could I relate !! Thank you for bringing this to my awareness !

  2. Nirvana Yoga says:

    Great article Lauren, made me laugh as I’ve been there too. We live in a competitive world and sometimes backing off takes so much more strength then pushing through. – Melissa Cugini

  3. Kaffirlily says:

    I loved this article, thank you! Having been laid up for three weeks, and yearning for my asana practice, I've had to learn to just let go and accept that I can't do certain things right now. I can't say the lesson has been easy, but reading things like this article certainly helps.

    • Lauren Huefner says:

      Glad you liked the article! Hope you're healthy and back to your full practice soon.

  4. cecefltrn says:

    Thank you for the wise words. I, too, am struggling with injuries (shoulder and wrist), feeling guilty that my practice has slowed down for now. I need to work on acceptance, and practice those asanas and techniques that don't threaren my recovery.

    • Lauren Huefner says:

      Don't feel guilty! It's awesome that you're modifying your practice for the time being rather than giving it up.

  5. Joe Sparks says:

    Hi Lauren, I am from NW Ohio. If you are experiencing pain in a pose and this pose is putting your body in hyper extension,the pose is fundamentally flawed. Are you aware that a lot of traditional poses are questionable, and do not make any anatomical sense. Right angle poses like down dog cause a lot of compression to the lumbar spine and hyper extend the shoulder joints , especially if you push your chest to the ground and hang off your shoulder ligaments. The body is telling you pushing yourself into a pose is unnatural and goes against the practice of Ahimsa, non-violence towards oneself. If you are not comfortable practicing a pose, you will NEVER get comfortable. Your mind is fine, go against the pull you have to be uncomfortable in Yoga. That pattern comes from our cultural, taking it into yoga is going in the wrong direction. In my opinion, one must treat one's body with tenderness and kindness. To care for yourself and have the utmost respect for your body and mind is practicing yoga.

    • Lauren Huefner says:

      Hey Joe,
      Thanks for the info. I'm a huge alignment nerd in my own practice and try to make sure my students are too. I hurt my shoulder rock climbing, not from yoga (separated AC joint), so any full extension isn't feeling awesome right now. But getting better!

  6. E-Nasty says:

    Very insightful indeed! Lovely writing as well!

Leave a Reply