I took a while to choose the title for this blog. I was chewing on AWOL, astray, MIA, AWOL (again) and finally settled on the first thing that came to mind when I had to write this – prodigal. Yes, well, technically, there wasn’t any extravagant wasting of money, but the allegory wasn’t lost on me. And while the narrative of the prodigal son’s return ends up stirring our moral and conscientious values around money, loyalty and parental indulgence despite the misplaced audacity and belligerence of their children, I couldn’t shake off the deeper feelings of welcome and acceptance after my brief hiatus from regular practice.
So, yes, the prodigal yogi has returned – and with that return, comes an insight, an understanding and endless opportunity to do what I absolutely love – introspect, dissect and make sense of the whole experience.
For, in the grand scheme of things, what else is yoga otherwise, if not to apply and make sense of life through it?
But, the making sense would have to graciously make way for a little synopsis of a 2017 that came and went with ravaging ferocity – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
The fracture that gave me the BREAK I needed
Although the fracture took a toll on my physical availability, years of practice, allowed for more basic strengths to come forth and establish themselves. Creativity, detachment, acceptance and presence of mind – all these qualities, amongst others, presented themselves at times when they were needed the most, unbelievable to onlookers even. The year went on to heal the fracture, but it also deepened the wounds with emotional turmoil, mental unrest and a sense of disquiet that often saw me questioning my own spiritual allegiance. Thankfully, the year ended with hope and faith emerging strong and gracefully setting me back on the path that I had, through circumstances, strayed away from.
This return to path, inevitably for me, also returns me to the 68″ x 24″ of space that is mine – the yoga mat.
Cleared for practice, with some limitations, I spent the months since September 2017, courting doubt and befriending procrastination, succumbing to a truancy from yoga that reeked of fear and justified the absenteeism with much fervor to anyone who asked me about it – including myself.
I didn’t even include yoga, or any of its affiliated words in my 2018 goals.
I chose to just wait and see – or so I’d like to believe.
And yet, my faithful yoga mat, with humble grace and perseverance, stayed put right where I last left in – in a place that was visible to me every single day – undemanding yet urging it a way much like best friends who’ve lost touch, or perhaps even had a falling out, and have forgotten why.
Until a few days ago, I finally took that step to her, my yoga mat (yes, she’s a she) and made up.
The prodigal yogi had returned.
But in my story, I didn’t ask for a third of anything, I didn’t ask for results, I didn’t ask for a quick fix to lost time. I didn’t ask for anything, actually. So we just picked up where we left off.
And that was enough.
I went through the practices I had often taught my students – the centering, the intention, the breath, the asana… and slowly fear and doubt crept in.
Insidiously, those questions attempted to seduce me away.
“Can you do this? Should you be doing this?”
I wasn’t sure. I was pretty much tempted to wait till September 2018 (doctor’s visit to schedule the next surgery for the implant removal) or a blurry intention to take a doctor’s opinion on indistinct asanas.
It didn’t take long for the realization to hit me – I was doing what I had trained myself to do over the many, many years of living in my cocoon of safety. I was allowing myself to be lured to a space of pseudo safety to avoid challenging the presumptions of harm, injury and hurt that could possibly cause me pain.
What’s the worst that could happen? I’d feel sore, have some pain, not be able to get into the asana as I’d left it months ago?
So… I practiced what I preached.
I showed up.
I followed the moves and cues that came like second nature. I paid attention to alignments that were new to me. I discovered that I was working with an entirely new body! I tensed at attempting my Suryanamaskara. I marveled at coming down in Ashtanganamaskar, yet noticed my grief at being unable to take my leg back in Ashwasanchalana. I was kind to my right ankle that cried in Veerabhadrasana and grateful for its amazing strength in Vrikshasana. I paid attention to those little crunches in my ankle that reminded me of nuts and bolts instead of bone and sinew and asked them permission to explore this new territory. Natarajasana that was available on the left side but urged me to move to the wall into Saral Natarajasana for the right. Hamstrings were tight in Downward Facing Dog, but my spine that was supple in Sphinx and Bhujanga. The energy of Kaliasana strengthening my legs and conviction to face obstacles and the grounding into Ekapada Rajakapota that allowed me hope that all is not lost.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt. It did (a bit). It was scary. I often tell my students that we don’t have X-ray machines or vision to see what’s happening inside our bodies, but we do have sense and awareness. So I used that – and fell back on what I knew I had to do.
I listened to my body… and I stayed with it. It was a new body, a newer practice and I loved it enough to respect its limitations.
Without a grudge and devoid of judgment, the mat and the practice welcomed me back into my space – like a childhood bedroom that has been aired and kept ready for my return. No questions asked, just acceptance, compassion and space – to show up and move on.
Luvena Rangel, founder of The Curvy Yogi, is one of Bangalore’s leading Yoga Anatomy educators and active supporter of social cause. An avid reader, writer and motivational speaker, she is often on the panel of various educational establishments to speak on a variety of topics.