yoga practice with James

On Injury and Health, Life and Death

Sep 4, 2021 | Musings, Yogic Movement

I injured my knee at the beginning of August. A month on, I was asked: ‘How is your knee?’

Well, it is not yet functioning to allow full range of motion. Plyometric training not yet on the menu. Neither am I yet playing football or basketball. But ‘how is my knee?’ I have to say, ‘it is magnificent!’ It is showing me the amazing regenerative power of this conscious, bodily vehicle. It is healing well, and the healing continues. I can just about walk again, such that injury is not apparent to an external observer, no longer needing to limp. Extension and flexion are improving. The ligaments are meshing and strengthening back together providing more supportive cohesion and all kinds of alchemy are happening as the meniscus is repairing.

When I first saw the local osteopath whose energy and holistic approach I greatly appreciate, he suggested that I look to nature and the example of a wild animal. ‘Take yourself to some quiet, sheltered place, and as far as you can, do nothing. The body is in healing mode. Allow it.’ Several days I was extraordinarily tired, as it felt as if the body was directing a lot of energy to healing. The injury and ongoing recovery process have brought many invitations: to be still now, to slow, to tune in more deeply; and as rehabilitative practices now come more to the fore, to feel awe and wonder at the body’s regenerative and curative capacities.

Today, this reminds me of a couple of things:

  • You are a self-healing system!
  • How fragile we are! What takes so much energy, intelligence, time to build/develop/grow can be destroyed or lost in an instant.

In turn, this reminds me of Paramahansa Yogananda saying ‘meditate as if your hair is on fire!’ Or as a friend shared in the words of another master the other day: ‘I try to live remembering that I have a great dagger hanging just above my head, by no more than a thread.’ In other words: give up this living for tomorrow, this ‘oh, I’ll be happy when I get x,y and z,’ this ‘oh, I’ll do what I want once I’m retired…’ Walking in life, death is our constant companion, always a hair’s breadth away, as close to us as the resonance of our beating hearts. Expansion, contraction, inspiration, expiration, life… and death, reality.
There is a famous passage in the Mahābhārata epic where Yudhiṣṭhira is asked a series of riddles, or almost impossible questions. Perhaps the most famous question of them all: ‘What is the strangest thing in the world?’

To which Yudhiṣṭhira answers: ‘that death will come to all of us, yet we act as if we are each the exception.’

How true. And how easy it is to live lackadaisically, absently.

So, this moment, this day, this life, let me live it fully!

In yoga, sometimes the crowning achievement of a human life is said to be to die in peace, fulfilled, free from rancour or regret. How is this achieved? By making life a steady, cumulative practice of sleeping in peace at the end of every day. How? By attuning to and heeding the gifts of conscience, by living wholeheartedly, welcoming to the gifts of the present.

The recovering injury obliges me to pay closer attention to how I carry myself, how I use the gifts of this day. Sometimes people say that injuries can be great teachers. This accords with something I often say – and need to remind myself of! – Nature is the greatest teacher. And She is always guiding us if we will but open ourselves. Right now, is Mother Nature not singing a clarion song, with a seismic bassline, booming phrases and searing refrains? How loudly must she cry to penetrate the miasma of our busy-ness and conditionings? Can we start really listening and heeding the guidance that the broader web of life is instructing us with? Can we empty out the hubristic human ‘know it all’ and negligent ‘what can I do about it?’ tendencies, and apprentise ourselves, humbly, to the beautiful teacher of Life, while we have the chance?

James Boag | Whole Life Yoga

The yoga of the whole human being. Practical philosophy, storytelling, movement, inquiry, looking in ways that reach beyond our habitual ways of looking.

Listen to James’ unique whole life yoga perspectives on the WHOLE LIFE YOGA podcast.

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