Monday, September 14, 2015

Using Injury as a Learning Experience

By Tara Kilgallen

Believe it or not, even Yoga Teachers get injured! We teach classes, do our own practice, run, hike, bike, do stupid stuff even. Once in a while, try as we may to take good care of ourselves, it catches up to us. When I first began practicing, I found that the practice went a more restorative route during periods of injury. But I am in a different phase of my practice now. Injury does not mean that I don't do my practice, or change my style to suite the injury. I have discovered that by bringing the practice back to the basics, I am able to move through my usual sequence of poses. I can tailor it to my needs that day, and through that shifting out of my expectations, I open up into the infinite possibilities of learning more about the poses at hand, and myself. For me, it is an opportunity to approach the poses and philosophy with a beginner's mind.

My most recent injury involves a hamstring. A few months ago, holding a forward bend, face to shin bones, was so comfortable that holding the pose for minutes at a time was no big deal. But this week, I am finding that even the slightest forward fold creates a twinge of pain from the sit bone down the length of the muscle. But I don't give in and quit. Instead, I bend my knees, ease into the fold over the course of many breaths. I use this moment to cultivate patience and kindness to myself. I look for the sensations along the back of the body, feel both feet stamping down into the earth, and utilize my exhale to let go of any tightness. After a few breaths, despite my injury, I feel my hamstring let go, and the body cue me to begin working the knees towards a straight leg. I pause, and take my time in that transition, and wait for the new sensation to chime in. If I experience pain, I question if it is time to move out of the pose, or is the body working the pain out. I play on the edge fidgeting and being present for whatever sensation the practice offers: good, bad, or indifferent. I question every thought my ego wants me to obsess over.

Then, I slowly move out of my forward bend into a lunge, again easing into it, noticing the sensation in the hip crease and the hamstring. Is there opportunity to heal and strengthen the injury? Is there something here, in the most basic of poses, that I can take forward with me today? What are the sensations I am experiencing going to reveal about myself this time? The answers are never what they were yesterday, and I can be sure they wont be the same tomorrow, either. But if I stay consistent in my beginner's mindset, and know in my heart that I will always be a beginner, I open myself up again to the infinite possibility and probability that the practice will show me what is next, bring me that much closer to Union with the Universe, and with myself. 

There are no advanced moves and level III classes that can bring anyone closer to the ultimate goal of yoga. In the end, it is a yogi's goal to attain enlightenment. So honor the basics, honor the roots of the practice, and if nothing else, Breathe.

Tara Kilgallen began studying yoga at the age of 16 when introduced to the practice by her dance instructor. She immersed herself not only into the physical practice, but also began studying the philosophy and theological roots that helped her form a strong mind- body connection. After years of self study, asana and meditation practice, Tara was certified as an instructor through the Yoga Institute of Houston, Texas in 2001. At just 20 years old, she began teaching group Vinyasa classes in the Wellesley and Natick area, while continuing her education, receiving certifications in Prenatal Yoga, and as a Rieki Master. In 2004, she ventured to California to begin a business of her own, a private yoga studio in close connection with the family business Tushita Heaven. After much success on the west coast, Tara and her husband returned to the greater- Boston area to focus on their family and other pursuits in 2008. Since, Tara has taught group and private classes at Lumina Mind Body Studios, and most recently has been given the honor of Co-Director of the yoga program for Lumina. Tara's classes reflect her spirit and passion for yoga. She lives in Framingham with her treasured husband and three sons.

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