Nicki Doane from DVD cover
I have found that, in the context of a regular yoga practice, an injury can be a blessing in disguise. During my years of doing morning mysore at Yoga East, I have had a few, but the main one was a hip injury in the summer of 2007. It appeared initially as a bad back – embarrassingly, I had to limp out of a weekend workshop with Nancy Gilgoff. The back felt better quickly; the hip did not. My chiropractor at the time looked at an old x-ray and pointed out that I have what seems to be a structural constraint on how far I can internally rotate my left hip. I had overdone it in yoga, he said. I would have to start using blocks, for example in parivritta trikonasana (revolved triangle), and just learn to accept my limitations. Kimberly and Karen helped me keep practicing and my injury started to heal. Then, on a long trip for work, it got worse and developed bursitis. Ouch!
That hip stayed sore throughout the winter and early spring of 2008. I kept using my blocks and being cautious about poses that called for the dreaded hip rotations. There’s nothing like pain to focus the attention! My big breakthrough came in another workshop. (One of the outstanding things about Yoga East is the amazing teachers Kimberly is able to bring to the studio.) This time it was Nicki Doane and Eddie Modestini. One of the signature aspects of their Maya Yoga system is the extended series of lunges they use for hip opening. It was incredibly hard work – and, a revelation, afterward my hip was pain free!
This experience was a turning point in my practice. For at least a year, I added the lunges to my opening sun salutations on a regular basis, and I still do some form of hip opener almost every day, with lots of beneficial effects. More important, my focus shifted from trying to do each pose of the Ashtanga vinyasa series “correctly,” to feeling how each pose is asking some part of me to open, strengthen, lengthen, or whatever. It seems to me, looking back, that this was the change that sealed my commitment to yoga and made the practice noticeably start to shape my body in positive ways.