A Gift From Yoga

Yoga gave me a broken pinky finger, and it was the highlight of my summer!

The break has prevented me from writing,  cleaning & cooking.   It has brought me pain, splints,  a hand brace and physical therapy.  It has created discomfort on my mat, in my life, in bed even.  It has slowed my practice, slowed my life, even slowed my thoughts.  It has forced a calm on me that I don’t often have.

And without a doubt, it is the best gift I’ve received from Yoga so far!

I didn’t break my finger at Yoga, I broke it surfing.

Having spent my summers at the Jersey Shore, I’ve watched surfers with a jealous heart but fearful soul.  In my 30’s I put surfing on my bucket list.  As each summer began I thought “this is it – the summer I grab a board and go for it”.  But each summer there was a reason not to.    Bad lungs, GI issues, sinus infections and surgeries, thyroid disease, celiac, resistant infections that refused to heal, cancer.  There were some summers I barely made it to the beach.  Other summers, while I made it to the beach, I had no strength for anything more.  Many summers I never even swam, let alone thought of surfing.  About 5 years ago I took surfing off of my bucket list.  I came to see it was a pipe dream.  People don’t start surfing in middle age, especially sick people.

Last summer was a whirlwind of activity.  Less then a year out of chemo, and newly separated, I found myself filling every minute with some type of activity.  Fortunately my family was highly supportive, even suggesting that we take the kids to surf camp.  The kids took to it immediately, and within a week we owned two surf boards and our days revolved around surf time.  Boards into the car, kids to the beach, surfing for the day, boards back in the car, begin again the next day.  I was filled with pride watching my boys learn to surf, something that didn’t come naturally to them but that they put their heart and soul into, worked at over and over and over, living for that one good ride in a day.  I felt amazement watching how quickly my niece took to it, standing on her 1st wave and every wave there after.  I felt I could live with this; they could fulfill my bucket list for me.  It was a great summer.

This summer started the same.  We switched to a different surfing beach, got a 3rd surf board, and my niece entered an actual surfing competition (and did great!), but my role was the same. Get the boards & chairs & towels & snack loaded into the car, get it all to the beach, encourage the children from my beach chair, book in hand, ear buds in place.   And it was enough.

Until it wasn’t.  Until the day I looked at the kids, put on a surf shirt and said “teach me to surf”.  What the hell was I thinking?  What 53 year old, sick divorcee takes up surfing?  Who in their right mind decides that the potential joy of the board is more important then looking like a fool, or hurting themselves?  Who thinks like that?  The Yogi thinks like that!

The Yogi knows a few things others don’t.

  • We know that very few people are looking at us.  Most people are too involved in their own story, their own pain, or their own joy, to pay attention to us.
  • We know that even if we fall, we’ll get up again.
  • We know that breathing controls everything.  It controls our muscles, our joints, our ligaments, and our fear.
  • We know that pain does not equal suffering.  We can choose to suffer, or we can choose to observe our pain, but not engage it.
  • We know that discomfort does not last forever.  Nothing lasts forever.  Not pain, not joy, not that wave we’re caught in.  Everything ends eventually.
  • We know that it’s okay to fail, which means it’s okay to try.
  • We know that beauty and joy lie not in the accomplishment, but in the effort.

There were some scary moments.  There was an “incident” that almost required intervention from the lifeguard (somewhat embarrassing, admittedly).  There were times when I wondered if I’d get out from under the wave that had caught me.  There were times, when the ocean was rough, that the kids refused to leave me, fearful I would drown.  And ultimately, there was a broken finger.

But the joy I felt was worth every sore muscle, every embarrassing fall, and even the broken finger.  I felt strong paddling out through the waves, thanks to Chataranga.  I felt balanced sitting on the board past the break of the waves, thanks to Tree Pose.  I felt peaceful watching the merge of the ocean and the sky, thanks to my time in Savasana.  I felt capable, thanks to Hand Stands.  I felt aware and alive,  thanks to the many teachings of my yoga teachers.

So yes, Yoga broke my finger.  And yes, I am grateful for it.   And yes, I can’t wait till next summer to get back out there!

I feel kind of bad ass.

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