And now, real yoga begins
It was at 2 am in the morning, I texted my friend to check if she is awake by any chance. I was woken up by severe pain running down the right side of my neck, between my shoulder blades and to the back of my right arm. Fortunately, she was woken up by the message tone. On any other day, she would have kept her phone either in silent mode or flight mode.
I am not a person who would ask for help. If I know I can handle myself; I will handle myself. On that day I had to ask her for help. Even before I asked her, she asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital. Very intuitive indeed. Without any hesitation, I said yes. It was an emergency.
On the way to the hospital, I kept saying to myself that I should have listened to my body. This deep calling for a long break to recover from teaching burnout, which I have been ignoring for a long time. I have been teaching for the past nine years and never had taken a long enough break to recover. Dubai, as we know, is not a place where one can sustain by being idle. So, I had to be on my toes teaching four classes a day and commute by metro and walk at least 5 km between studios and home. All this excluding my practice which occasionally lasts for 2 hours. It is my practice that helped get rid of accumulated stress and also kept my body at ease for the rest of the evening. Fatigue was a constant companion. Dubai summer can be lethal.
At the hospital, I was given three shots of a high dose of morphine. Unfortunately, it did not work even a bit. And then doctor decided to give me a narcotic drug so that I will doze off a bit. It took agonizing 40 minutes to get permission from the narcotics department in Dubai. I did doze off a bit after that. Not sure if it was the drug or my body just gave up after 3 hours of trembling in pain, only to be woken up by shooting pain in 10 minutes.
I spent the next four days in the hospital in pain, while doctors try to figure out what is going on. After about 21 bottles of painkillers that ran into my veins, four high doses of sleeping pills, five anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxants, and 12 tasteless meal the doctors had something to say. X-ray did not reveal much. Bone density looked great, the distance between the vertebrae seemed great, except for a loss of lordosis at cervical region. My mind voice said, "maybe too much shoulder stand." Blood work revealed a deficiency of Vitamin D and B12. Which is not a big deal and the pain is not because of some scarcity although it contributed a little. That was fixed immediately with two injections. But MRI revealed a different story. The report said I have a pinched nerve that runs between C6, and C7. It is serious than I thought. If there is a time to listen to my body, this is it. I took three months break from teaching. I went to hometown to relax and recover.
A doctor in Chennai said this is quite common for people whose body cannot retain water in them. Again my brain voice said 'typical Vata type.' The disk between the vertebrae becomes dry and no longer cushions the impact of the everyday activity. Eventually, it bulges and starts irritating the nerve. "If someone can find out why the body cannot retain water he will win a Nobel prize," the doctor says jokingly. He also suggested a surgery immediately and fuse two vertebrae with six screws. Thought he was joking. But he wasn't. It is serious. My face became pale, and I am sure the doctor and nurse noticed it. I didn't have much to say about it. I told the doctor "I think I need some time to digest what you said just now." I packed my reports and walked away, determined that I will never let anyone touch my spine with a knife.
Back in the hospital in Dubai, I was silent for some time trying to make sense of it all. My friend, who was there throughout this ordeal asked me, "What are you thinking?" I replied, "it isn't the condition that bothers me much, but what I will be able to do after this. I am known for displaying strength and stability in my practice. Now, this is all going to change when I cannot even lift my mobile phone with my right hand". It did not take a moment for her to reply. She said "you may be known for all the things you mentioned, but you don't realize that you are much more than your handstands and display of physical strength. You are much more than this physical aspect that you believe is what you are. It is time to display strength in subtleness". Words of wisdom. She was right. Every word of it. She has seen me through pain and stood by me every single minute during this ordeal. She is nothing less of an angel.
I realized that I have been portraying yoga as a display of strength and stability, although my practice is more about disciplining the mind and emotions using my body as a tool. Now that it is gone, at least temporarily, I have to dive much deeper into yoga and healing. I said to myself, "And now, real yoga begins." I should be careful not to spring back with aggression but with more wisdom. Aggression is a product of ego. Wisdom is a product of surrender.
I can't help but think; this condition can be a blessing. This is like universe telling me to stop whatever that I have been doing and go subtler.
Surgery is out of the question. I have to believe that the spine can heal itself if given enough time and if I practice directing my energies. It is now time to put my healing abilities at work full time. I will have to use all my faith in this healing process. The universe is not going to let me suffer. I have to make myself available to her. That phase of my life I called it 'faith and surrender.'
During this time, I happened to meet yoga practitioners and teachers alike. They all had gone through severe injuries in the past. One teacher mentioned "she likes injuries. It teaches so much". Of course, it does.
I have been injured before. It looks like I have not learned the lesson until last time. This could be a rude wake-up call to listen to the higher consciousness. And I have no choice now but to surrender and listen to what it has to say.
Thanks to Ayurveda. I had no choice but to put all my faith in Ayurveda, An ancient healing system known to humanity. Internal medication with the herbal formulation and medicated oil for external medicines worked magic. Although, it took few weeks to see any progress. I followed the prescriptions religiously. At least I was happy I am not injecting harmful chemicals into my body. In about six weeks, I was able to start my practice. Very slowly that is. I was yet to gain strength in my right arm. I had lost few kilograms in the process of cleansing and healing. The pain had vanished entirely in about eight weeks. I even managed to do an Advanced Teacher training course after two months of the ordeal. I had to thank the wisdom of ancient medicines. Faith in Ayurveda is restored. I had not experienced pain ever since. It doesn't stop there. Now I have put my foot in Ayurveda. Ayurvedic Doctor who herself is a yoga practitioner and a healer said: "a yoga practice without knowing the body type and needs is a clear recipe for disastrous results." In this case, I am an example.
My practice has changed ever since. It is subtler. More focused on subtler aspects of yoga than about physical display of strength and stability. I now honor my body and not the practice.
And Now, the real yoga begins.