One of my students in my yoga class last night made me so very proud. She told me she had doctor’s orders not to practice yoga due to an overworked ankle. She had the desire to still come to class, so I explained to her she can still come and do what she can because the practice is about connecting the mind to the body, not how well you perform the asanas.
Yesterday, I posted about resting when your body needed rest. In this case, my friend did not need mental or physical rest, she just needed not to bear weight on her ankle. So she came to class and I gave her exercises to do while the rest of the class did the standing sequences. I informed her that as soon as we got down onto the ground, she could work with us.
I am so impressed with this woman’s determination, because it perfectly illustrates one of the most fundamental aspects of yoga: Do what you can. It does not matter if you cannot keep up with the class. What matters is that you show up and do what you can on that day.
To practice only what is within your capabilities that day takes self-respect. Often times, we want to keep up with others because we feel inferior if we do not. Again, that is the opposite of what yoga is supposed to do for you. Yoga is supposed to fill you with a sense of accomplishment at what you can do that day, not inferiority over what you cannot do.
I have been in classes where people were missing limbs. I have taught a class to a man who was missing a leg. Some people come to class with an injury and modify the practice around it. To me, these people are to be admired. Their determination is symbolic of another great principle of yoga: Be happy with where you are today.
If you have an injury, and still want to practice, you can still show up and do what you can. Please, please, please, though, tell the teacher what your injury is so that she or he can help you modify if there are postures that are not appropriate for your body that day.
In the case of my friend, she surprised me at what she was able to accomplish, as she did a lot more postures then I thought she was going to be able to do. You never know; you just might surprise yourself!