It isn’t Bikram Yoga, but it might as well be.
Sweat already drips off my chin, my body shaking as we hold plank pose.
My wrist is a little sore from two days before in the same teacher’s class. It doesn’t necessarily hurt, but it’s tender if I bend it too far back.
“Yes, you can,” the yoga teacher repeats again. A plea not to give up on ourselves. To stick through this even though it’s difficult—to prove to ourselves that we can do it.
I like this teacher because she gets me to go outside of my comfort zone. I would never before have tried Side Crow Pose or Eka Pada Koundinyasana—both challenging arm balancing poses—if it wasn’t for her plea to just try and see what happens.
The music speeds up, and we move faster with the tempo. The room grows even warmer as we move our bodies together, our ujayi, or yogic breath, syncing.
After a while, I’m not thinking about my wrist.
We’re warming up for the peak pose—Bhujapidasana—where the legs fold over the upper arms and the hands press the body up so the butt is hovering off the floor. We start by sitting and pressing ourselves up off the mat, our hands at our sides. The teacher demonstrates at the front of class, her strong arms casually lifting herself up. She tells us that we can do it, she knows we can. If we just believe in ourselves, we can lift ourselves up and fly.
I believe her. I know I’ve been holding myself back. I know I’m strong. I press everything I’ve got into my hands, and that’s when I hear it: a loud pop from my right wrist.
Immediately, I sit back down. It feels tingly and hot. I cradle my wrist, massaging the area a bit. But the class is still going, so I pick up where I left off. I try to convince myself that I didn’t hear a pop—that it was just a water bottle that got knocked over.
I set myself up for Bhujapidasana. I’ve still got this, I think to myself. I plant my hands down at my sides, and just as I’m about to put even the slightest bit of weight into my hands, my wrist screams at me. No way in hell am I going up. I sit back down, and come into a Child’s Pose. I try to focus on my breath, rather than the throbbing pain coming from my wrist. I try not to freak out.
That evening, my wrist is visibly inflamed. It hurts to bend it up or down. I wrap an ice pack around my wrist and try not to think the one thought that’s in my mind: Did I just do real damage to my wrist?
I regret having gone too far when my body wasn’t ready yet. It’s like I’ve just hurt a best friend. Each morning I wake up, my lungs breathe in air, my heart pumps blood throughout my body, my legs take me where I need to go, and this is how I treat it? Suddenly, I feel deep love and appreciation for this body that does so much just to keep me alive every day. How could I let my ego get the best of me?
I don’t want to believe that my yoga practice could be entirely different from this moment forward. I don’t want to have to be gentler on myself or modify certain poses from here on out. I want things to go back to the way they were.
Letting myself heal.
Letting yourself heal is an interesting thing. It’s crazy how judgmental and impatient we can be with ourselves. I won’t sugarcoat it—my healing process was hard. There were plenty of days when I was grumpy, annoyed, and frustrated.
In the end, I take a few months off my wrist. It’s difficult, but I know if I keep letting my ego get in the way and keep straining it, I was going to do irreparable damage.
A lot of people refer to practicing yoga “off the mat.” I’ve come to learn—quite literally—what that means. My time off from the physical practice of yoga deepened my inner practice. I learned to be more comfortable sitting in meditation. I read books on yoga and studied pranayama techniques. I ate cleaner and was more conscious of what I put into my body.
My mind felt clearer, and I could feel myself becoming more at peace with things I couldn’t control. A stressful day at work didn’t seem quite so stressful, and a long train ride home was a chance to read my book. I was being kinder to others and kinder to myself.
After three months, I eased back into a yoga practice. One that’s gentler and more sustainable. When I hurt my wrist, I wasn’t ready for that pose yet. I was impatient and forced my body to do something it wasn’t ready for. Now, I listen and feel. If something feels forced or strained, I back off or modify the pose. And by the end of class, what I remember most is not the pose that I couldn’t do, but the joy of simply making it to my mat.
Practicing patience and opening yourself up to fully experiencing the journey is what life is about. If we’re only focused on the end result, we’ll miss the magic that gets us there.
Author: Jordan Parker Reed
Image: YouTube screenshot
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Danielle Beutell
Social editor: Nicole Cameron