Why Yoga Does Not Mean Downward Dog

IMG_4177I sprained my left wrist two weeks ago. Being a lefty means that injuring that left hand in any capacity makes for a difficult time doing pretty much anything. I have learned to successfully brush my teeth with my right hand, feed my mouth with my right, and tie a ponytail in my hair using my right hand as well. These small things really add up. And when I injured my left wrist, one of my first thoughts was…”oh no, now I can’t do yoga until it heals!”



Then after two days of feeling really lazy I got on my yoga mat. After sitting in child’s pose for a good 15 min, sort of contemplating the fear of hurting my wrist even more, I began to move through some asanas on my mat. I found a nice, vigorous flow that did not involve the use of my hands or wrists at all. It felt perfectly balanced, like a deep stretch throughout my body, and I was able to protect my wrist when needed. That morning I realized that my practice had been dependent on Downward Dog for quite some time; that I had stuck with one way of approaching sun salutations, one way of moving through both sides of my warrior II and all standing poses. I have really been able to find a new yoga practice that is much more grounded (not to mean that I am lying on the ground the entire time).

I have been able to find my feet. The energy rising up from the earth, through my arches and into my shins and thighs. Gathering up this energy into my heart and then sending it back down my spine and all the way through my heels, back into the earth and creating a balance. More lift and length has come out of my mountain, and I have engaged my muscles in my abdomen and back that I never used to acknowledge when standing on two feet.

Finding a practice that is challenging and also healing has become easier now. I am not pushing through the physical strain. I am embracing the physicality of the asana practice while using my breath to lighten and lengthen the pose. Pranayama has flowed back into my practice. My diaphragm has been exercised in a way that has been lacking from my yoga practice the past 6 months or so. I am more aware of the breath and energy I bring into my body, and more aware of what I need to release.

And this new approach to yoga, a kindness and loving understanding for myself, has given me a clearer presence and awareness. There have been fewer thoughts rising up from the past while on my mat. And I find myself, the rest of the day, more often in a state of peace and stillness; of listening.

Listening to my body, to my wrist and hands, has been key these past two weeks. I am being gentle with this healing process. I am not pushing my wrist to get better. It is weak and I recognize that it needs time and it needs love. And so I have not been using my left hand. I have not attempted downward dog, as tempting as it can be, because I know that I need to heal fully in order to move forward.

Each day is an opportunity to listen to what my body needs. Yoga does not require that I perform downward dog on my mat at least 5 times, or between each standing pose. Yoga means to bring body, mind, and spirit into harmony. And placing unnecessary pressure or strain on any body part will bring those parts of me into a place of imbalance. Yoga can be breath, it can be meditation, dance, deep relaxation, maybe even a walk out in the park. Yoga is my practice to develop, enhance, change and adjust so that it best suits my state of being in the present moment.

Yoga does not mean downward dog. Or headstand, or warrior II. Yoga does not depend upon what I did the day before. It depends upon who I am. And I am here exactly as I am meant to be.


IMG_4838Breathe. Listen. Be You.



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