So recently I’ve been playing a bit with the Ashtanga Primary Series. It’s more like a flirtation- I’m not ready to commit to a serious Ashtanga practice.
To mix metaphors, you could even say I’m just dipping my toe in the water.
My incredibly crippled, feeble little pinkie toe.
The one that I mashed mercilessly into the ground two days in a row in an attempt to do Janu Sirsasana C.*
You see, in this version of Janu Sirsasana (“Head to Knee” pose) your bent leg is contorted so that the the sole of your foot is pressing into your opposite thigh; the heel is up in the air and your toes are pressed into the ground. It requires openness in the hip and Achilles tendon that I, apparently, do not possess. Right, ouch…
I did this posture on Saturday during my practice, and it was pretty painful. When it came time to practice again on Sunday, as we finished Janu Sirsasana B, I thought “Oh God, this isn’t going to be good.” Ignoring that wise little voice, I muscled my way into the posture- both sides- and then limped through a sad little vinyasa after to the next posture. I believe that I actually whimpered.
The next day, my pinkie toes were killing me. I could still wiggle them, but not in a happy way. I had to tell someone about my silly toe problem. I sought out a sympathetic friend. “You’re not going to believe the ridiculous injury I gave myself this weekend,” I said, and described the series of events that led up to the mangling of my toes.
My (beloved, honest, good) friend said to me, “Wait. Isn’t this what yoga is about? Not doing this kind of thing? Isn’t that what you always say?”
“Well… yeah.” And then I paused, and really thought about it. Yeah, I knew. I knew it was a bad idea to deliberately, manually, stub my toe. I knew that I was not practicing ahimsa– the yogic law of non-violence. But, as so often happens in a practice, I let my ego win over my good yogic sense. And until my friend called me out, I hadn’t truly internalized the lesson. I was violating the yogic law of satya– truthfulness- as well!
So, what should you take away from this? Your yoga teacher is a hypocrite? Hopefully not. Maybe, she knows whereof she speaks? Sounds better. Let’s go with that.
Seriously, I think what really struck me is that no matter how far I think I’ve come, the practice continues to teach me. I’d gotten complacent with myself (“Sure, ahimsa, right, I’m good, I don’t need to worry about that”) and I’d forgotten how to hear my own voice. Thankfully I could still hear my friend’s, reminding me (kindly) to practice what I preach.
I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to do next week when I get to Janu Sirsasana C- but it’s going to be a lot gentler.
*Ironically, this link suggests that if you aren’t comfortably able to do this posture, that you instead work up to it by doing a pose called- wait for it- “Toe Breaker.” Oh, okay. That sounds reasonable!