No one enjoys being injured, least of all people who love to move their bodies in weird and wonderful ways.
So when injury strikes it can be debilitating for the mind as well as the body. It's all in the meaning we give them.
I believe that injuries are simply a feedback system (or "jury from within", as my teacher John Demartini calls them). Injuries are great teachers - I've learned so much from the injuries I've had, and I've had a LOT of them. They have each contributed to my personal evolution in essential ways.
There are loads of reasons why injuries happen, and each one has a unique lesson for us.
For example, sudden injuries often happen when we're elated, euphoric, showing off or not concentrating, putting too much pressure on ourselves or a combination of all of the above. Sometimes it's as simple as we're doing too much too soon - increasing the demand on our body that goes beyond what it's used to. Dosage, people, dosage.
"Slow burner" injuries, as I like to call them - like tendinopathies that creep up on us and linger like that annoying guest at the end of a party are particularly fruitful. More on that later.
My most significant injury was my left knee that plagued me for a good 5 years. It came from nowhere - a mild pinch when I did Child's Pose - one of the most benign poses in all of yoga. I ignored it for a while but over a few months it started shouting louder and louder until almost every movement I was doing was intensely painful. That's the thing about these things - the more we ignore them, the louder they have to shout to get our attention.
Eventually the pain started interfering with my life - I couldn't do parkour (my favourite thing) and that was like telling a kid they can't have ice cream. Ever. A big part of the frustration was that I felt my peers were making progress and I was getting left behind. I wasn't consoled by the hours of handstand training I was doing because what parkour gave me tapped into an old void that I wasn't aware of - it made me feel strong, powerful and agile, like a lithe, glorious panther - something I felt I didn't have enough of when I was younger. Handstands didn't quite cut it.
I went to see osteopaths, "physiopaths"(a word I just made up) and psychopaths (orthopaedic surgeons), and became increasingly despondent that nothing was helping and my knee was steadily getting worse.
Eventually I had little choice but to go within...
There was A LOT going on, and a couple of key factors were contributing to the pain. One of them was my job. I was teaching about 25 hours a week, darting around london, often on a bike. As I my career was growing, so was my knee pain.
Great, but what does this have to do with my knee? Well, it would sometimes get worse while I was teaching. I was increasingly feeling unappreciated and like a fraud - not because I felt underqualified but because I realised I wasn't dedicated to yoga in the way that I thought I was supposed to be. I'd known since before I started teaching yoga that my heart wasn't truly in it (hence the birth of FlowMotion). As such, my knee made me reflect on what I was doing, the path I was haplessly meandering down and it made me be really honest with myself.
As you can imagine, I found it incredibly difficult to confess - even to myself - that I didn't love my job. I'd be biting the hand that fed me and I believed that my students and clients wouldn't want to work with someone whose heart wasn't in it, then I'd be screwed. Weirdly, that never happened.
But this whole situation led me to realise that:
a) I didn't have to put nearly as much pressure on myself in parkour as I had been doing previously, and that I can enjoy parkour so much more when I accept my limitations. It helped me reconnect with my reason for doing it in the first place - because it was FUN. Since then, I have changed my relationship with parkour and am enjoying it so much more.
b) my own movement practice is more of a priority to me than teaching other people (this feels awkward to admit) and that I have other things I want to offer the world - hello coaching and performing! It's as if my intuition was trying to guide me...
c) my knee was the sight of a lot of other life frustrations (too numerous and boring to go into here). Once I acknowledged them and changed a few essential things in my life, my knee pain magically went away...
Without my knee being a total nightmare, it would have taken me much longer to come to these realisations.
Slow burner and lingering injuries tend to have more numerous and more profound messages for us. Sometimes it's a case of the bigger the injury the bigger and more essential the lessons. Either way, they're trying to hold us accountable to be our unique and authentic and balanced selves. We just have to listen.