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Teachers come in many forms

When you are ready, the teacher will appear

Recently I have been practicing with an injured elbow. Shirly asked if I would write about this experience. I thought about what to write. How to practice through injury? A narrative of the practice session?  

Then I realised what I really wanted to write about was teachers. I have a soft spot for teachers. Many of my friends are teachers. Our chats often meander to the funny and sometimes sad stories that inevitably happen in a classroom.  

What touches me is their genuine care and concern for another human being. A teacher’s heart is precious. When you enter a classroom helmed by a sincere teacher, the world seems kinder and safer. I feel this whenever I go to the Shala to practice.

If we allow ourselves, teachers can take on many forms. In a book, in a friend’s honest observation, in an impossible dateline, in the yoga practice. Pain and fear are my teachers as I practice through this injury.

After a few years of practicing, I felt that things were falling in place. I could almost do a headstand, almost do a drop back. Vinyasa was still shaky but less untidy then everything had to be put on hold when the injury happened.

Putting weight on the elbow was painful and I was afraid of aggravating the injury. I could stop practicing for a while as advised by the doctor. The physiotherapist’s suggestion was just do what felt comfortable. There was such a contrast in the advice given. One person sits in an office while the other works on the ground. I chose to go with the latter. Shirly helped me put together a modified practice that placed very little load on the elbow, during a Zoom session no less, and I was ready to go.

Pain tells me where I need to pay attention. I realise my practice lacks integrity. I have a fairly flexible body. Many of the poses that come easily are done rather carelessly. There is form but not alot of substance. So I am prone to falling and losing my balance.  

With an injury, I have to be a lot more mindful of how I hold myself, placements and alignments. I need to hold back and build strength before moving forward. Fear, on the other hand, is only the monkey mind chattering in the background. Now, I try hard to maintain a steady breath and keep focus. This helps the practice to flow and quiet the monkey.  

The practice has brought me many lessons. A few I have learnt, some I am still learning and many I have missed or forgotten. Along the way, different teachers have appeared to guide and encourage. For which, I am deeply grateful.

Article by Hanya

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