Groove Pants and a passable adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog) do not a yogini make. Well, not necessarily.
Here in the wild West, we often think of yoga as a series of asanas (poses) with a few minutes of pranayama breathing tacked on at the beginning and end of class.
But according to Patanjali, asanas are of tertiary importance. His Yoga Sutras suggest that yamas (five abstentions) and niyamas (five restraints) are the first two steps toward yoga. The five yamas are ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraha. The five niyamas are shaucha, santosha, tapas, svadhyaya, and Ishvarapranidhana.
At this early point in my yogic education, I've only studied the first two yamas: ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truthfulness). They're so big, though, with such reach, that as soon as I started looking at them and thinking about how they related to me, I became so overwhelmed that my body shut down.
It was Tuesday, and I was in the studio with my fellow teachers-in-training. We were talking about ahimsa as it related to us, and I realized how infrequently I practice non-violence to myself. Most of the time, I dislike my body, am disappointed in my performance, frustrated at my skill level, and am ashamed of myself as a result.
So while I'm not especially violent toward others or with my speech (not that I'm perfect on those counts either), I doubt Patanjali would pass me on an "Are You Ready To Yoga?" test. So as we moved on to satya, I was faced with a bit more truth than I could handle.
Rather than sit with it, though, be with it and face it, my body decided to protect me from too much truth at once, and at that point, right there in the studio surrounded by people, my neck spasmed, and I spent the rest of that day and the following 36 hours in a cycle of pain, spasm, nausea, vomiting, and unconsciousness.
The logical part of me (it's small but it is there) tells me that the injury (two facets between c4 and c5 were stuck closed) and resultant spasm came from too much sitting on the floor of the studio or at my computer with my head in a compromised position. But the rest of me (flighty, intuitive, feeling-rather-than-logic-based) believes that my injury came when I needed a break. I'd seen or heard too much, just couldn't take in any more, and my body closed itself off for a couple days to regroup and recover.
Our bodies know so much, and still we ignore and discredit them.
I don't have any conclusions or final points to tie this post up neatly. The past week has been incredibly educational and humbling, and even though I'd love to wrap it up and move on, I have a feeling this theme will continue for posts to come.