Sunday, December 18, 2016

Beginner's Body

"Let us return to old times, and that will be progress."--  Guissepe Verdi

"Everybody's got a plan until they get punched in the face."-- Mike Tyson

Seven weeks out from surgery and, like a fetus at the same number of weeks from conception, my practice is just beginning to resemble something like what it will eventually be.  At this point it is still forbidden for me to bear any weight on my arms but I can now begin reaching behind my back.  This means I can do all of the fundamental, or standing postures, and most primary series postures.  No suryanamaskara, vinyasas, purvatonnasana, bhujapidasana, or kukutasana.  For finishing I do three Jane Fonda bridges, viparita karani, and the lotus posture sequence.

Odd as it may sound to some, getting the SLAP lesion in my left shoulder fixed surgically was thrilling in several ways.  At a most base level, the prospect of finally getting to take Percocet with complete impunity was sweet.  On the other end of the spectrum (but still also at a most base level) I looked forward to the acute pain (as opposed to the chronic pain of the injury itself, which had been steadily eroding my emotional well-being).  I have been a masochist for as long as I remember and even now my standard physiological response to sharp, intense pain is to giggle.  It wasn't all drugs and whips and chains, though.  I was also thrilled to get this issue fixed, once and for all.  Although my shoulder is still really tender even as of this writing, I remain giddy at the prospect of getting lasting relief.  Finally, on a more intellectual level, I looked forward to the challenge of seeing if I could walk the talk so many yoga teachers do regarding non-attachment to practice and postures.  It is obviously very easy to tell people not to fret over their injuries when you are whole yourself.  It's probably at least as easy to tell yourself, while you are pontificating to your student, that if the roles were reversed you'd be fine.

And how did I fare in dealing with post-surgery restrictions?  I'd give myself a solid C+.  For the first two weeks after the operation it was easy to stay calm and unattached to practicing because the pain was still quite intense.  Practice simply wasn't an option.  During the next weeks I started to become restless about having my arm in a sling.  When the sling came off there was a new pain which again countered any restlessness.  The time in the sling had shortened and weakened the bicep such that even letting my arm hang down by my side loosely felt intensely stretchy.  The attachments and hang-ups over lost ground, as it were, came in earnest once I began physical therapy and once I started to fiddle around with asana.

First, the pain in my shoulder has hanged on longer than I expected.  One Pandora's box of questions: "Did this surgery even work?  Will it ever get better?  This is not really any different than before the operation.  Will I get to do tic-tocs ever again? Advanced A? Kapotasana, even?  And Jesus Christ, I'm fat.  What the fuck?"  Even though both my surgeon and my physical therapist and all the discussion threads with which I've consulted confirm that the persistence of pain at this stage is normal, I still doubt and worry.

Second, the back side of my body had closed up significantly in just four weeks of rest.  The pinching in my hamstrings when I did trikonasana B for the first time was really alarming.  Memories flooded back.  I remembered how I'd always hated that posture.  Same for paschimatonasana.  I wish I could say it was interesting to re-experience the opening of the body, particularly the back side of the body, that most beginners go through; that I had been able to sit there up in the cockpit of my Mind observing, taking measurements, making notes.  It wasn't the case for me, unfortunately.  I just found it unpleasant.

Now that it's been a week or so of doing some standing postures and forward bends, and that's all coming back, I'm antsy and eager for more.  Without suryanamaskara or vinyasa the practice feels so incomplete.  I also want to roll up my sleeves and begin helping my students again too.  Several of them need help on postures that would require more elbow grease than I am able to give.  My work now, it seems, is remain more in my head than in my body for the time being.  That is to say that instead of dwelling on what my body feels I must continue to trust what my mind knows-- that healing is happening and in somewhere between six months to a year I will be back in the saddle again completely.

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