June 19, 2014

Ohm—Ow: How an Injury Deepened My Yoga Practice. ~ Ilka Omdahl


I knew something was wrong—my wrist hurt.

It pained me to push up: out of the tub, off a chair, out of the car. I dismissed it as overuse.

Months passed.

Recently, I discovered that I tore a ligament in my wrist, and that my ligaments in the other wrist were overstretched. Anatomy 101: ligaments connect bones together and once they are stretched, they are stretched for good. When they tear, sometimes they heal, sometimes they don’t.

Needless to say, I didn’t take the news well. One would have thought I found out my hands needed to be amputated, or my arms, or all my appendages. There was plenty of wine and even more tears.

Contemplation. Denial. Not necessarily in that order. Last week, I had a “Come to Jesus” meeting with myself  that lasted for about 46 hours, and then I was back in touch my inner Sara Bernhardt. I had to yell, “Stop!” out loud so I could shush the self-pity and calm the tantrums.

Today, I met with the occupational therapist, who along with my orthopedist, are true angels in disguise. I shared with him my mourning, and talked to him about my formerly vigorous yoga practice. He said in a matter-of-fact tone, “Those days are over.”

The words stung me. Not because I thought it was otherwise, not because the pain in my wrists indicated something was terribly wrong, but because I had just said those same exact words to a colleague when they asked why I was wearing a wrist brace and what that meant for my yoga.

Everything changes. Everything shifts. Sometimes what we have is a moment, or maybe hours, or it’s stretched out to years.

But in the end? Everything ends. The good and the bad.

I am finding with this ending a conscious acknowledgement of complete gratitude for a practice that has brought me the joy and excitement of my lifetime. Now, it must change.

Confession time: my fantasy posture was being able to do a handstand in the middle of the room. For me, that posture epitomized ultimate strength and grace. To be able to hold oneself upside-down always had me wowing on the inside. I never made it to the middle of the room—I only made it two, three, maybe four inches away from the wall, only seconds (maybe 10 tops), with my feet over my hands in one long line of energy. Then it was gone.

I am discovering, as I peel back the layers of disappointment and sadness of a former practice, that yoga is about presence. “Duh?!” one might say (I’m a slow learner). It’s the poses that we practice that force that presence—the poses both on and off the mat.

Life can do that, too, and experiences are just asanas in disguise. Those “asanas” whether or not they are practiced in the middle of the room, without support are just as meaningful as the ones we do, with props aplenty against any wall we might lean against. They take grace and strength, only a different kind.

I feel blessed to have had the yoga practice I had. I am excited for the new one that is ready to unfold before me.

I only pray I can stay awake and be present for it.



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Editorial Apprentice: Andrea Charpentier/ Editor: Travis May

Photos: Barbara Pateraki/ Pixoto


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