Limitation Can Spark Creativity

In January, I badly sprained my left mid-foot area. X-rays did not show a fracture, and after the first month, I had little pain, but the swelling persisted for months. Then in June, I learned that in addition to the sprain, I also have a fracture to the first metatarsal that is not the original injury, but probably occurred in the last few weeks. I have been wearing an air cast for a little over two weeks and I am to stay off the foot as much as possible.

When I learned that I would be in the boot for 6 weeks, I was immediately determined to continue my yoga practice and maintain the tone and mobility of my body. I also made an inner commitment to remain positive and cheerful, for my own sake as well as for the benefit of my husband, friends and students.

I was grateful that my doctor cleared me to swim, and my time at the pool has been joyful and uplifting to body, mind and spirit. While swimming is a fantastic activity, it does not replace asana practice, and I knew that I wanted my practice to continue with depth and with appropriate challenges. While I was confident that I would be able to continue my practice in a modified way, I was surprised to find that limitation imposed by my injury has brought fresh motivation and new learning in my yoga practice.

At first my mind went to what I could not do. No standing poses. No backbends with weight on the feet. No pressure on the top of the foot. The list of poses that I would not be able to practice seemed sadly long. But I soon shifted my focus to what I could do. Reclining poses offer lots of excellent options to keep the hips mobile, the legs toned and the abdomen strong. The chair supports many ways to do forward extensions, twists and backbends. I recognized that I was actually able to do some version of every category of asana! Even standing poses can be done on the floor. In fact, the floor versions of some standing poses can be extremely challenging!

I realized that with some careful adjustments to how I entered the poses, I could still do the four fundamental inverted poses: Adho Mukha  Vrksasana (Full Arm Balance), Pinca Mayurasana (Forearm Balance), Sirsasana (Head Balance) and Sarvangasana (Shoulder Balance). Being able to continue with my inversion practice has been a huge help, keeping my body stable and toned, and my mind optimistic and calm.

Working on the inversions led me to the realization that I could use this time of restriction as an opportunity to further investigate upper body weight bearing, especially in arm balances, a category of poses that I have been neglecting. I started by figuring out how I could do Adho Mukha  Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose) and other upper body weight bearing poses in ways that put little or no weight or pressure on my feet. I then started looking into how I could enter various arm balances from the chair, since squatting in Malasana (Garland Pose) is not possible for me right now.

By focusing on inversions and arm balances, I have experienced an awakening  of my arms, shoulders and abdomen. Instead of feeling a decline in my condition, I feel stronger.

When the boot comes off, no doubt I will need to rehabilitate my foot, and that process will become a new focus, also with potential for fresh discoveries. But for now, my practice has new life as I dig into some poses I had not practiced in some time.

It has been engaging and mind opening to do the problem solving involved. Is there a way to do this pose that puts no pressure on my foot? Is there a safe and steady way to enter and exit the pose? I have certainly tried some things that did not work, but also now have a good collection of things that do work, that I can share with my students and mentees.

This experience is showing me that limitation can definitely spark creativity, if we keep the mind open to what is possible, whatever situation we find ourselves in.

Whatever circumstances we face, yoga can help us find balance and peace. I hope you will visit the Green Tara Yoga website soon for resources, inspiration, and information about our classes and workshops.

Namaste,
Karen

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6 Responses to Limitation Can Spark Creativity

  1. Janis Nelson says:

    Karen, you are a constant source of inspiration to me. This post demonstrates that you are the very embodiment of our method; the science, art and philosophy of yoga.

  2. Thanks, Jan. I have had my ups and downs with this, but yoga is helping me get through it!

  3. Julie Tamarkin says:

    I am so sorry you have gone through all this, but I am so glad you have used the experience to enrich your practice. That is impressive! I hope your foot heels quickly and you can be boot free in your practice again soon.

  4. Mary Kelsey says:

    Thank you! Very useful for all the limitations I’m experiencing, and we all inevitably come up against.

  5. Thank you so much, Julie!

  6. You are most welcome. I think that the use of props, and the stages and modifications of poses, are some of the greatest gifts (among many) that B.K.S.Iyengar has given us.

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