Ashtanga Wrists

October 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

After all the whining, I never really reported back on where things are at with the iffy left wrist, simply because there’s nothing much to report. The sharp, tender pain has evolved into a dull one that pops up every now and then, growing in intensity once I’ve pushed things a little bit too far and have to scale back.

I will say though, that this experience has changed the quality of my practice in how I’ve had to slow things down and tread mindfully. Each vinyasa is now something to be done with care and awareness, instead of relying on momentum to carry me through, regardless of the costs. In hindsight, the experience went through three distinct phases: The first was one of chronic pain and a mixture of horror, resentment and self-pity. A distinct sense of doom that the practice as I had come to know and love had vanished forever. This phase required significant modifications to the form of practice, even skipping poses that aggravate the injury. On the qualitative level, it was of utmost importance that I paid close attention to the body and tuned in to what it had to say. A crash course in somatic awareness.

The second phase, which I entered about 2-3 weeks in, was one where each practice, done with care and consideration significantly strengthened and built on the previous session. Released from the intense jolts of pain in some weight-bearing positions, there was space for experimentation. Perhaps a jump through here and there to test the system. Some tentative attempts at exiting Supta Kurmasana, maybe Kukkutasana for 3 breaths instead of 5. There was an adding and subtraction of poses, a lot less self-pity and wallowing, and noticeable improvements in the strength of the wrists from one day to the next. Practice as therapy.

The third phase is where I am now, which is sort of like an extended second phase: the experimentation continues. Some days the wrist is up for the full deal (jumping back and through in every vinyasa, and all hand/wrist weight-bearing postures), some days it isn’t. The one constant (apart from breath and drishti) is maintaining awareness in each vinyasa, whether I step or jump it. Bringing the awareness to the thoracic spine, from the scapula to the sternum, to every inch of the palm. Feeling how my hands ground into the floor and the energetic connection to the space behind my heart. Listening, sensing, breathing into the knots, so that what needs to be broken down around the heart and shoulders eventually melts away.

I have no illusions that I’m “done” with pain in this practice – whether it appears in the left wrist, lower back, shoulders or anywhere else. While the three phases I outlined here appear linear, regular practitioners will know that this practice is anything but linear. One day you’re flying and the next day you’re whimpering. No one said transformation was ever glamorous or fun, or all unicorns and rainbows, but they also failed to mention how deeply rewarding it can be. That is, once you manage to get out of your own way, which is essentially the story of my life.

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