Tuesday, September 6, 2011


So that’s some about how we get injured.  More intriguing, but way more elusive, is why.  

“Injuries are signposts on the path home,” one teacher sagely pronounced. And this is true. If you can figure out how you got an injury, you can figure out how to heal it, and thus take your body “home” to good health.  Alas, it’s often not so clear how we got where we are—how to read those signposts.  

When I was nursing my first shoulder injury, which lasted through all of 1996 and halfway through 1997, I went to the best yoga teachers and massage therapists and body workers I could find, just trying to get a diagnosis. The answers were so vast and varied that I joked that I could fill a book with them and title it “What was the Question??” because the answers were truly apples and oranges, unrelated and even contradictory.  Everyone had an opinion, but none of that collected wisdom was easing my pain. Were they not listening? Did the sum total of human knowledge fall short of my specific affliction? How complicated could it be? And the months dragged on and on . . .

Of course, being basically self-absorbed, I assumed that I was the only one with an injury.  I judged myself defective, flawed, less than. I was either weak, or stupid, or both. And the more my injury pulled me away from practice, or from the practice the rest of the group was doing, the worse I felt about myself. Solitude is the quicksand of self-esteem, and the lonelier I got, the more momentous my injury appeared. I could see no way out. I was not convinced that I deserved a way out.

Several years later, at an Anusara Yoga Therapeutics Training, John Friend asked the group how many had injuries. In a roomful of maybe 100 teachers, some 80 hands shot up.  I was shocked.  We who supposedly knew the most about yoga, its technique and its healing powers, were the true walking wounded.  Gather teachers for practice or a meal or an airport layover, and sooner or later the conversation will wind around to somebody’s injury. Often carefully, even painstakingly diagnosed and rationalized, many of these injuries nonetheless mysteriously persist beyond reason.

At that was when it dawned on me that injuries are much more than physical; in fact, the physical now strikes me as the symptom of a deeper cause.  Carolyn Myss has written deeply and extensively about the psychosomatic component of illness in Why People Don’t Heal—And How They Can. I want only here to put forth my personal observations about the weird ways that injuries can colonize our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.

“How can I explain personal pain?” wailed Iggy Pop in one 1980s song. 

When we can’t help, or get help for, our injuries, our pain, it’s easy to feel misunderstood, terminally unique. The Isolation Pit is just one short step from this advanced form of self-pity.

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