Yoga and Crutches

by | Dec 10, 2014 | Ashtanga Yoga, Wisdom

We have had some magnificent sunrises recently, and the light mornings are calling us to do a yoga practice. Unfortunately our mind invents all sorts of obstacles as to why we can’t possibly get onto the mat. The reality is that there is always something we can practice, despite physical limitations both imagined and real. I had the opportunity to explore this in great depth very recently, when I tore my meniscus.

After hopping on one leg for a day, crutches could not be avoided anymore. Needless to say, this would be challenging for someone who cherishes their independence, and most of all a lot of strong daily physical activity.

When you have to fully rely on others to supply you with all your daily needs, to take you everywhere you need to go, it teaches you to let go and surrender. Life all of a sudden becomes a very ‘laid back’ & relaxed affair, without any rush. Patience has to become your best friend. The city frenzy doesn’t make sense.

The Yoga Sutras state that to be able to make good choices and to tap into our infinite potential, depends on will power, determination, regular practice, and devotion. And as much as we are responsible for the course of our lives, the Sutras also say that not all in life is solely influenced and directed by us. Our lives require an element of trust; there is a learning in everything that happens to us, even if not immediately obvious. To stay optimistic with a positive outlook for a good and beneficial outcome to the situation, changes the quality of the ‘unwanted’ experience altogether.

The practicality of being on crutches requires some getting used to. You can’t carry your cup of tea from the stove across the room to the table. The simple task of carrying a yogamat is no longer possible: – it needs to be put in a matbag, hung over the shoulder, then brought to the space where you want to practice etc. ‘Then practice what?’ you might ask. I couldn’t straighten my leg nor could I put any weight on it. The injury or discomfort we are experiencing fully absorbs us. All of a sudden we ‘are’ our knee, and there couldn’t possibly be anything we could do with it in terms of yoga practice.

I felt very fortunate to have immersed myself in yoga for many years and for having developed a degree of body awareness. It has helped me greatly to remain as balanced as possible, and to keep the reliance on using one side of the body only, to a minimum. Being on crutches literally ‘throws us off balance’. You might be surprised, but the bandhas – our muscles seals – are extremely helpful in this instance; and the ability to balance on one leg assisted me greatly with simple activities. All the way through this experience I maintained a daily pranayama practice. My faith in this practice has greatly deepened, since I recognized that each time after the practice I could walk better. This amazed even me, that after breathing ‘only’, and no movements/asanas, my walking improved.

After such a blow to one’s usual exercise/practice routine, one could easily forgo an asana (posture) practice, assuming that it would be nearly impossible. I am so glad I immediately gave it a go. There was no need to only be consumed by my knee. All other parts of my body were still working magnificently – especially with the ample sleep and rest I have had, as I was obviously not teaching.

I managed some simple sun-salutations, and even most of the standing postures, using a little bench for support in some. Floor postures were great fun. It was during the practice of those, that I felt at my best for the rest of  the day. I could still balance on my arms and practice lifting myself off the floor. Inversions were possible, and sitting for breathing and meditation could be made comfortable using some blankets or bolsters.

When the Physio told me that I am three weeks ahead of the usual recovery time, I put it solely down to Yoga. I now love Yoga even more-so, if that is possible!

Back in the class room my faith in this wonderful practice has become even stronger. Yoga helped me to stay calm and sane in this situation. It truly is a gift from the Gods.

Keep practicing.

OM Shanti,

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