Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hips Don't Die

I started the year thinking I needed to do something new.   So I came up with the idea to jazz up my Thursday night class a bit.  It is now called YogaSequence and we will be practicing a specific sequence for 8 weeks and then rotating.  The current sequence is called Hips Don't Die--thanks to Ruwanthie for coming up with the name.  I am going to post a few blogs as thoughts emerge from that class.  The first one is below.  Maybe I will see you Thursdays at 5:45pm at the Women's International Centre, next to the Lionel Wendt in Colombo 7!  Bring your hips.  I promise they won't die!
Hips Don’t Die
I once fractured my hip.  It seems funny that I can’t remember if it was my right hip or my left hip, I mean it’s not a small or usual thing to do.  Although come to think of it, I broke my arm once and cannot remember which one.  I do remember that I climbed up a slippery dip backwards and fell off to cause it though.  And I definitely know which foot I had surgery on a few years back, but that’s easy because I had surgery on both!  
The hip was broken due to a stress fracture and I got it training for a marathon.    I must have been pounding away on the pavement for about three months leading up to the marathon, each step adding to the burden of my poor hip.  The final straw (that broke the runner’s hip) happened sometime during the marathon.  I remember around the 28k mark feeling a distinctly odd sensation in my leg—I couldn’t be sure where it originated—and altering my stride to compensate.  I thought I was reaching the legendary marathoner’s “wall” and kept on going.  My run turned to more of a plod and finally to a pseudo-Quasimodo step and drag.  I remember my dad from the sidelines asking whether I had run out of petrol, to which I quipped, “Got plenty of petrol but there’s something wrong with the parts”.  Despite the odd leg situation I was pretty cheery.  I kept up my step-drag routine all the way to the finish line, at which point I collapsed with relief, sadness, joy, passion, wonder and amazement.   Somehow I remember falling into the open arms of my father and sister, although I can’t quite remember if this is just an embellishment to my memory or if it actually happened.  In any case, it feels like it would have been the perfect thing to do.
Quasimodo takes possession
A week later, when Quasimodo still had possession of my stride, I took myself off to the sports doctor who quickly gave me crutches, told me not to put any weight on my leg what-so-ever and sent me off for scans to confirm his diagnosis of a stress-fracture.  That was followed by six months of non- and partial weight bearing, leaning heavily on devices like crutches and walking sticks (I found a really cool one at a local market that did not make me look 75 years old).
Anyway, there are a lot of lessons I learned from this experience.  But I still wonder why it was that one hip fractured and the other didn’t?  I am not sure I know the real answer but I my own guess is there was some slight asymmetry or imbalance that placed more stress on one side of my body than the other.  Where was the asymmetry?  Where was the imbalance?   Questions to which I don’t have an answer.  What I do know is that years later I became aware of a difference in my hips while doing pigeon pose (eka pada rajakapotasana) in yoga—one leg slipped quite readily into the posture while the other put up a picket line in protest. 
Growing awareness
The awareness on the yoga mat gradually lead to awareness sitting in my chair at work; I realized I sat on one side of my bottom more than the other.  It lead to awareness while standing in a supermarket queue; I realized I tended to lean on one leg more than the other.  It lead to awareness on the bus as it sped up going around the round-about at Thumulla Junction each morning; I realized I gripped one hip more than the other to keep me upright.  Always the same side, the same hip tightening. 
Our body develops habits over a life-time.  Part of the process of yoga is becoming aware of these habits and learning to discard the unhelpful.  These can be postural habits our body has formed, but, equally, they can be emotional or thought patterns that keep recurring and having a destructive influence on our lives. 
You can learn about your habits anywhere but the Hips Don’t Die class will definitely give you the chance to reflect on any differences that might have been forming in your hips over the years.   Because some of the deep hip openers are held for a few minutes, and because this can feel very intense, you also have the opportunity to reflect on some of your typical reactions to managing intensity and perhaps discover new ways to manage it.  We will explore some of these in class and I will write more on that later. 
See you in class.  And remember, no matter how they might feel in the midst of a deep pigeon pose, your hips definitely won’t die!

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