The last time I visited my gym was early March, 2020, mostly likely attending a Body Combat class.
Then the pandemic happened.
Then knee surgery happened.
I ended up putting a six month hold on my membership, and it restarted earlier this month. The first week of my newly opened membership, I took a Sunday yoga class. The day before I had tried out some yoga at home by following a few YouTube videos. I was surprised and pleased at my mobility, even when I drastically needed to modify. With something like yoga I don’t experience pain in my knee so much as just being stuck because my knee cannot bend or straighten any further than I’m trying to go.
I still can’t sit criss-cross-applesauce, and that haunts me.
Despite not being able to sit in a comfortable cross-legged position I was overall thrilled with how my body flowed fairly easily through the class. The teacher noticed I’d brought two blocks with me and told the other students they could try using blocks too.
I casually mentioned to her I was recovering from ACL surgery (if we ACL patients have a chance to tell you about it, we will; we’re like vegans or CrossFit enthusiasts), and she made a point throughout the class to caution us about putting pressure on our knees or some ways to modify poses with blocks. I also got creative and tried out a few things I made up as I went along. Turns out, just like you have to be a good body mechanic as a black belt, you also need to be a thoughtful mechanic when you’re recovering from a major injury.
Something magical happened within that first week of going back to a structured yoga class: my relationship with yoga, something I’ve done for the past twenty-three years, changed. It became a healing tool that I’d never experienced before.
Even though I’ve always been body-conscious (a little too much sometimes; more on that later) and into exercise, I’ve always been careful not to label yoga as “exercise” or a way to control my weight…because it’s not. Among many other things, it is meant to quiet the body and the mind, something I desperately need. Yoga has always been there through my struggles in college, young adulthood, and into maturity. It’s always been in the background, waiting for me when I stayed away, and welcoming me when I returned.
The poses are doing triple duty now–besides the regular movement and calming effect, it’s something I’m actively using to rehab my knee. I know my body and yoga well enough that I can push further or back off when I need to.
And this is even better than the physical stuff – last week I experienced a mental breakthrough that I’ve never had in all the savasanas and quiet mind moments of my entire adult life practicing yoga. At one point during a pose, a worry about work started to bubble up in my brain. I silently responded:
You don’t have to solve it here.
And I didn’t! When I was tempted to worry again, I countered with the same reminder: you don’t have to solve it here. I tried that again when I was off the mat: on the elliptical at physical therapy the next day, driving home, and even logging onto my computer for work.
You don’t have to solve it here.
At one point I asked myself, so what do I think about if I’m not worrying and trying to resolve an issue in my head?
The answer: nothing if you don’t want to! You can do whatever you want. Isn’t that nice to not worry all the time?
It’s been a week since that quiet but profound revelation, and it’s managed to stay with me, even though a busy work week and the general demands of life: You don’t have to solve it right here or right now. Worrying about something that might not happen won’t do you any good. It’ll work out without your interference and driving yourself nuts. It always does.
If I had to go through all this ACL nonsense for that peace of mind, I’d say it’s worth it. It’s been a long time coming.
Stay tuned for my upcoming book– “Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts” published by She Writes Press. Coming to a bookseller near you April 20, 2021!
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