When you blow out your back from surfing, and Urdhva Kukku B kicks your butt, one thing happens.
I didn’t cry when learning Primary. Cried a few times when going through Intermediate, but mostly what came up for me was anger…all the anger I had repressed through the years, and was released through the nerve-cleansing postures of Nadi Shodana. It was a nerve cleansing indeed.
But now that I have begun Third, I don’t think I have ever cried more than now. I have heard that while Second brings up fear and anger, Third crushes the ego. I feel this is true, especially after today.
Of course, I’m a surfer at heart and I need to go into the water. I’m guessing that my back blew out because that is the same pain which happened when I was surfing. About 18 years ago, a large wave broke on my lower back and since then, it has never been the same. That part of my body gets compressed easily, and when it gets compressed, I’m wracked in pain.
I have seen a chiropractor for years and this has helped a great deal, but when things get busy, I stop going. My back was tweaking in and out for the past few weeks and I merrily tried to power through the days. I think that the combo of Second followed by Third, then tic tocs (with the tocs still being quite erratic) put a strain on the back.
Yesterday Ava and Dylan both wanted to surf. I took Ava out in the morning, introducing her to the small broken waves; seeing her wide smile made everything better. Pushing her into the waves did not make my back happy though. Then Dylan wanted me to take him surfing with his friend in the afternoon. So I did, and seeing the groms paddling in the water made my heart fill up with joy at the thought of sharing my passion with my kids. Then I switched from short board to long as the waves were tiny. The difference in pressure along the legs and back from switching boards probably didn’t help.
Well, this morning my back was not so happy. I woke up with some pretty severe pain but told myself that I will go to practice anyway and just see how far I can manage. Got through Second. Got through Third. Couldn’t come up in Urdhva A no matter how hard I tried. I tried three times and by then I was exhausted. I was covered in sweat and shaking. I tried to do Urdhva Kukku B. Could. Not. Get. Up.
Go figure. My back was hurting, and I try to lift up from lotus into my armpits. The body is saying, “No more!” No more indeed! I collapsed down on my mat, and before I knew it, tears and sobs came out. Andrew thought I was laughing at first, because I often laugh at myself in practice, but he sobered up after he saw the tears. He rubbed my back to comfort me and this made me cry even more. “It’s ok,” he said. “It’s part of the process.” Well, I didn’t want everyone to see THAT part of my process. It was a full practice meaning that there were lots of folks in the room. But I couldn’t help myself — the tears just kept on coming through. I looked at my friend Jessica who was practicing beside me, and her kind look made me cry even more. “This shit SUCKS!” flew out of my mouth. I managed my three dropbacks but decided to give up on tic tocs — there was no way they would happen for now.
Ironically the back bends help my compressed back feel better. The forward bend after dropbacks were torture. Andrew had to help me relax into a forward bend, and I never thought that forward bends could be so hard. Whimpered through finishing, and had to struggle into resting.
After practice I ran into my friend Julie. She asked me how I was, and then the tears came out again. I can’t remember exactly what we exchanged, but her warm and kind look helped me so much. Sometimes it is really those little things that don’t involve words. I do remember Julie saying, “Maybe you just need to cry a bit more.” No one has ever said that to me. When I cried as a child, my parents admonished me for being weak. The permission to cry felt inexpressibly beautiful.
Ahimsa crept into my mind. My ego was in the way. I wanted to do these postures, but my body was saying “No.” I had to finally listen to my body, and not do violence to it. I had to surrender my ego, and be okay with chaos, tears, things not working out.
But what also touched me ultimately was the kindness of others. Not what one can do physically. My mind flashes on those who tried to be helpful, giving advice when advice was not asked for. Or those who expressed passive aggressive comments, criticizing you for “going too fast” or things of that nature. It made me realize something really important. Those who are attached to the physical practice aren’t really doing the yoga. Maybe the physical — what we can see — is paradoxically an illusion! In the book Guruji — A Portrait of Sri K Pattabhi Jois, I think it was Brad Ramsey who said that what is invisible is most important. He mentioned the breath and bandhas as being invisible but the most crucial part of practice. This is true. But I also feel that it is kindness which is also invisible and just as important. The real yoga was revealed through the kindness of others, and that taught me about being kind to myself. And for that, I am profoundly thankful.