Please forgive the Jack Nicholson reference, but I often hear him in my mind when struggling with my own practices.
Some Sundays past, the deacon at church gave a great sermon. As a retired lawyer, he usually delivers good vignettes, but this one struck me quite powerfully. He was telling us that the message in that week’s gospel is that we are all called to be both prophet and priest. What’s the difference? To paraphrase:
A priest’s job is to worship. A prophet’s job is to tell the truth. It’s not a prophet’s job to tell you what is going to happen next Tuesday. It’s not a prophet’s job to tell the truth to people who already know it or who are willing to listen.
A prophet has to speak the truth all the time.
That last part really struck me. What truths am I unwilling to hear? What truths am I unwilling to speak? Well, here’s the non-exhaustive list.
- The truth is, I have a wonky shoulder that I ignored for years and now can’t do a handstand and have pain most days. Some nights, the pain wakes me up.
- The truth is, I pulled a groin muscle more than one year ago in my left leg. In my body’s willingness to compensate, I now have problems with the right piriformis.
- The truth is, I kept doing the splits (hanumanasana) in my practice.
- The truth is, lotus pose (padmasana) is now impossible.
- The truth is, I INJURED MYSELF DOING YOGA!
And the bitter truth is that no matter how smart/young/flexible/strong/skinny you are, you also might injure yourself doing yoga.
Now before you email me pictures of yourself with both feet wrapped behind your head in a handstand on the beach in Bali, please read carefully: I am not saying that yoga causes injuries. (I am a yoga teacher, after all, and don’t wish to put myself out of business!) I am saying that I got caught up in the cult of physicality. There was some part of my identity that I thought included being able to sit in the splits or in mastering center-mat handstand. There was some small, yet persistent, part of my brain that thought poses=self. It’s slightly embarrassing to type that, much less put it in bold font. You’d think someone who can talk the talk would have it deeply embedded in her being that we are not this body. Alas, I am human and subject to the call of the ego.
But here’s another truth –
Because truth is universal, I am not alone in knowing that yoga heals.
My friend Denise Orsulak sees it when she works with preteens and teenaged girls.
My friend Sue Steindorf saw it in her students with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and developed relationships with mental health professionals in her area.
My friend Nadine Fawell experienced it through her own recovery from abuse. She now teaches others living with PTSD.
You have probably never heard of these women. There is probably a very, very long list of names that could be added here that I have never heard of. You won’t see these yoginis on the cover of Yoga Journal. Elephant Journal won’t be highlighting their work. They have stepped outside the cult of asanas. They have found the truth of yoga practice. And they are spreading the word. I am privileged to know them.
Do you know some people who belong on this list? Please tell me about them. And I’d love to hear about your own healing.