Crossroads Yoga teacher Erin Reipe poses in eka pada rajakapotasana (pigeon pose) at sunset.
So what have I been yaking about for the last couple of weeks? What is this Kripalu thingy mahjiggy
The first week of June this year I spent 5 nights and 5 days with fellow twenty somethings under the leadership of the totally inspiring Coby Kozlowski. Look at her website by clicking any of the words in this sentence. Coby isn’t all that much older than me, but she has worked hard at getting her shit straight- or at least faking it pretty damn good. She offers a course called Quarter Life Calling: Creating An Extraordinary Life in your 20’s. My twenties are almost over, but the knowledge is less about being 20 as it is being a human being.
The center is nestled into the Berkshires, which is a string of baby mountains that run from Connecticut into Massachusetts. They are on the same thread as the bigger Green Mountains in Vermont. Nonetheless, the area around the center is idyllic in the summertime. My June visit provided me a rainy but majestic view out the front entrance, a nameless peak (to me) which often had mist rolling off it in the early morning hours when I sleepwalked to my 6:30am gentle yoga class. They offer a variety of yoga classes ranging from gentle, moderate and vigorous a couple of times a day. There are also many hiking trails within walking distance of the center, with one even leading down to a cold (to this girl who is now accustomed to swimming in the gulf of Mexico) lake. In addition to the yoga they also offer a ‘dance’ class, which is really just people shaking and moving however they feel comfortable getting their groove on. I attended one of these and it was a blast! If the yoga, dancing, and hiking is too much they have a dry sauna, a whirlpool and a cold plunge to help ease the discomfort of aching muscles at the end of each day.
Many of the girls and guys in the course (yes, there were guys) received this course as a graduation gift. What thoughtful parents! Some were yoga teachers and others had never done yoga. The spread of people taking this course was really remarkable. I was toward the older spectrum in the group, having turned a ripe 29 just the week before. I remember when I graduated college feeling like the world got ripped out from under my feet. The short term goals of papers, semesters, and graduation was gone and I was finally in total control of my own destiny. It was pretty overwhelming for me, and I was working 32 hours a week, taking four classes and living with my boyfriend in Brooklyn. Still, somehow I felt like the world expected me to be at the pinnacle of my success within six months or I was doomed to life at the shoe store forever. Without the rigor of school to congratulate me for my good work I was at a loss to figure out how to maintain that satisfaction.
And although it manifested differently for each and every person there, the threads of that same fear were reflected in their faces. So for the week we worked on our personal strengths, weaknesses and baggage. We worked on finding our own callings through exercises of guided visualizations, games, lectures, writing, and body movement. We danced, we cried, we screamed, we cheered, we laughed, we learned. For those 5 days I was in an utterly judgement free bubble. One of the exercises was this primal dance exercise with live drummers in which I danced, or rather pranced, around entirely idiotically like a deer. I would never want to see what I looked like doing that dance, but in the bubble it was so easy to write it off as silly. It was fun and I am still glad I did it, but also glad there was no photography.
One of the mantras that Coby recited over and over and over and over again that works for me now, after the bubble has popped and I am back in a living world were kindness and acceptance aren’t always handed to you when you prance like a deer in a public space, is what yoga- not the poses, like down dog or triangle, but real spiritual yoga- is Tolerating the Consequences of Being Yourself. The mind is great at justification and therefore it can decide you did everything wrong in the past and everything wrong in the future if you let it time travel like that. But yoga, and tolerating yourself, helps. It helps me remember to be kind and gentle with myself regardless of the decision I made. Regardless of the outcome- there is no way to know what will happen in the future? The good and bad flow like the sea, and who knows which tide is coming?
My new word of the day is psoas . The first time I heard this difficult to spell word was while begging a massage therapist to get me onto the table as soon as she could. She tells me Monday. It’s Thursday. I tell her no way, I am in too much pain. I plead by ranting about flashes of sharp, bright pain that shoot from my hips into my shoulders when I sneeze. I press on, moaning about crawling out of my car because I can’t bend. Please, help me mighty masseuse, be merciful. She says Monday. I tell her I must find someone today.
About three weeks ago I started doing yoga again. I frequented YouTube and found some nice soft, restorative sets which left me feeling like I could stand taller and breathe better. I began forming a daily practice. Last week I started to try a class with the title “intermediate”.
The class was challenging with lots of hip opening standing poses and even a back bend, but no inverted poses or splits or levitation or anything. I was pretty sure that this was how doing any type of physical discipline progresses. Start easy and keep challenging yourself. I didn’t even attempt the back bend until the middle of last week. The first two times I “listened to my body” but the third time, I really wanted to do it, so up I went. It felt divine.
The next day I was happy and pleased and skipped yoga because of holiday merriment. Twos after was when the beginnings of pain began to creep and it hasn’t stopped.
New Year’s Eve did not do me any favors. Well, I didn’t do me any favors. I wore heels. Terrible move if you have a sore back. My cup overflowith with champagne (and red wine and white wine and beer) and I stumbled around some and bruised my leg horribly. It looks like someone slapped my leg with a pole. Its the nasty type of bruise, the kind that puff up and get black immediately. The middle is already yellow.
So after that eventful turn of calendar on Monday, on the first day of the new year, I wake up on my friend’s pull out sofa a complete wreck. My leg is throbbing and I can’t sit up without looking like a 10 month pregnant women. I need water. My head hurts and my stomach isn’t responding well to food. Welcome, oh welcome 2013.
I manage to make it home, where it takes me 15 minutes (ok it probably really only took 3 minutes) and some tears to manage to crawl out of my car and into the doorway. I make it to the carpet, my guy gets me a blanket and I lay there for two hours in the middle of my living room, immobilized. It felt so good, I actually slept there Tuesday night.
Wednesday I hoped would be better. But I was still hobbling. Calls were placed to friends for recommendations of massage therapists and chiropractors. I rubbed my back down with Tiger Balm and welcomed the electric effect. But despite moments of not-sheer-agony, I needed answers and relief.
So when the first massage therapist couldn’t take me, I moved on and managed to find another that had a slot open today. I jumped to her first available without even asking the fee.
She lead me to an apartment in back of her house. I explained my problem and my story. She touched my lower back and instantaneously she knew she was going to spend some QT working my glutes (read: ass). She asked me if I was ok with that, and I said I didn’t care what she had to do if she could make this pain go away. The next hour she worked the flesh around my love handles tail bone and hips in a way I would describe as medicinal. Mostly it consisted of moments of deep, formative pain. She would touch a muscle and hurt would move in waves through the affected area and decrease slowly as she released pressure. I went onto the table only knowing the general location of pain- I left knowing specifics. She told me at one point as I righted my face back to a normal expression instead of the one from “the scream” that she wasn’t even going deep into the muscle.
An artistic expression on my face while getting my psoas muscle massaged
It wasn’t exactly a massage where I came away feeling refreshed. In fact I am still in quite a bit of pain. You see, she too thinks that I have injured my psoas (SoAz) muscle. This helpful little bit of flesh goes from the inside of your hips through your pelvis and onto your lower back. It is basically the muscle that helps you walk and sit. Which kinda explains why this sucks so bad. One blog referred to it as the human tenderloin. Apparently it is quite thick. Next to this wonderful psoas muscle is the illacus muscle. I pulled that one too. She said that is the reason sneezing is so gawd awful painful.
I’m not sure what comes next. Rest, I suppose, and a few simple stretches. I hope to be back to wandering around snapping photographs as soon as possible. All those with new years resolutions of fitness for 2013, beware, pulling your psoas(or any muscle really) is a terrible experience, so take care and don’t push yourself.