Personal Evolution Assignment
On the 29th of December 2020, I went sledging with my children. It was a gorgeous village scene - loads of people celebrating the snow together. Adults, children, babies, several dogs. I had a few goes with my elder son and then decided to have a burl on my own. The sledge absolutely pelted down the hill, my foot strayed out as I started to spin, and then everything goes a bit blank for a moment.
What came next is a vision and a sensation that I am still processing (it haunts me a bit when I am trying to settle for sleep at night) - my foot was splayed out to the side and I had a weird empty feeling below the knee. Onlookers thought I had taken a bump. I knew immediately that I had broken my leg, and asked a friend to call an ambulance.
There was numbness, then there was pain, there were blankets and hot water bottles, offers of tea, then suggestions not to ingest anything in case I needed an anaesthetic later. There was regret and fear - until my yoga teacher friend reminded me to return to the Now. There were paramedics trying to find a vein in the freezing cold. There was the most profound agony I have ever experienced, as my leg was moved and I was transferred into an ambulance. There were the worried faces of my children as I tried to smile and reassure them, "I'm fine, it's just my leg that hurts!"...
I had to have an operation to pin my tibia (both it and my fibula were fractured) and a full week in hospital. I started to find a handful of stretches I could do to ease my discomfort from lying around all day and was given some physio to do - but sometimes I was so sore it was all I could do to visualise movement. I found I couldn't meditate without listening to a recording and sometimes even that didn't work; my practice was unrecognisable. Gradually, I have been able to add a tiny bit more to the asana I can do as my range of movement has improved and I can find the mental stillness to sit in silence for a meditation most days. But I still can't kneel or fully bear weight on my right side so I am still having to be very creative and accept that I am limited.
This Thursday, just over five weeks after my hospital stay, I will start teaching online again. This is the longest break I have had from teaching since I qualified. I will have to find new ways to teach (by my nature, I am very much a demonstrator rather than a describer of the postures) and I have no doubt that the content of my classes will be different too.
I think it might just be the making of me as a teacher.
Before I qualified, I knew I wanted to be proactive in offering accessible/ inclusive classes, having had a professional background in (and lifetime commitment to) the inclusion movement. I'll admit I hadn't figured that bit out yet; I know that I am inclusive in my manner but I also know the postures I teach would challenge many students. Suddenly, it all becomes easier to figure out. I'm a kinaesthetic learner, which means I struggle to understand how to do certain things without some physical experience. Unravelling 20+ years of (relative) ease in my yoga practice was the challenge for me in my teacher training; I learned modifications and options but if I'm honest (and we must be) I couldn't always imagine what it felt like not to be able to do certain postures.
Well, now I know.
During our teacher training, we were set "Personal Evolution Assignments" each month. Something to explore which would help us grow as practitioners and teachers. My personal practice has evolved since my accident because it simply had to. I consider my next assignment to be teaching in a way that replicates these modifications I have made. To evolve into a truly inclusive teacher.
The classes I am running for the next few months will offer movement, but I will describe the intention of these postures in such a way that any body [sic] can find benefit. My teacher sent me a recorded meditation where I was simply to visualise a sun salutation, posture by posture. I could feel my body opening up to the experience as I lay on my bed, dosed up with painkillers! I can learn from this.
I commit to ensuring that at least some of my weekly classes are fully inclusive of all bodies as I move forwards, for the rest of my career as a teacher. I am so relieved to have found my way to really learn how to do this; fully, deeply, and authentically.