|At the end of May, I fell on my toe heavily on a transition from chair pose, a posture I do many times daily and is very familiar to me. I took my eye off the ball. My toe was badly bruised, and moving my foot was painful. It is a small miracle that it was not broken and perhaps a testament to the strengthening power of ashtanga style yogasana.
This incident made think about how injuries are teachers, as Rosina often used to say. When I was studying with Sudhir last summer, we looked very closely at Yoga Sutra 2.47: prayatna shaithilya ananda samapattybhyam. It means: lessening the effort and with the mind focusing on the infinite. It describes how asana should be practiced.
A posture, any posture, yoga or otherwise, has two parts: the first is the getting in and out of it (think of getting in and out of your bed, or into a car, or the chair pose I injured myself in), and the second is the state of the asana, the place of stillness where you might spend some time. Prayatna shaithilya, lessening the effort, is how the first part (the dangerous part) should be practiced, and ananda samapattybhyam, with the mind focusing on the infinite (and not one’s shopping list) is how we should be in the state. But we don’t do the second part very well and we completely ignore the first a lot of the time, thinking transitions are not the asana. I injured myself because I strained trying to come out of chair pose in a handstand tuck, effortful, with the mind focusing on the next thing and not the present. A sure recipe for disaster.
During my injury, I continued to practice. There is always something to practice and I don’t mean getting into postures with aching toes. One needs to listen to what is needed, never force, and go to the doctor where appropriate. One also needs some pulling back and some rest. I practiced patience, loving-kindness towards my body, and gratitude. I gained invaluable physical self-knowledge about the patterns of my body. Yoga is more than asana. I practiced Sutra 2.47, lessening the effort of my feet, my breath, my mind, and listening to subtleties of my body, my eyes (their flickering indicating the infinite was not where I was focusing), and the beauty of a having a practice that supports my bruised toe. I healed.