“Yoga teaches how to cure what need not be endured, and to endure what cannot be cured.” Yogācārya B.K.S. Iyengar
Playing in an indoor soccer game when I was 17, an opponent player slide-tackled me. My body was small and light and flew up in the air and hit the turf covered cement and was carried off the field in agonizing pain. For a few days or a couple of weeks, I was unable to walk. I was medicated. I don’t remember much. There was sciatica, a herniated disk and stress fracture in L5. I began Iyengar Yoga one year later and the low back was working ok then but never really learned how to move deeply in backbends. After my second child was born, my back became weak and was injured again (L5 complete retrolisthesis—which means the vertebrae moved backward) and then it really had to be addressed through a ton of practice. Eventually my teacher taught me this pose, Bhujangāsana II, or cobra with no arms, at an Intensive but I wasn’t able to do it: my lotion covered legs slipped right out of my hands. Practicing it the next morning with props it didn’t seem that difficult and when I came to him and told him that, he laughed, and walked away. Soon I would realize why that was so funny. It took 13 months practicing to understand this pose before it was possible to do without support. All the prone backbends were studied deeply and relearned. Usually this pose was included in three practices a week—it took hundreds of attempts. Now it is still practiced regularly because just maintaining it is difficult and strengthening for my lower back in the right direction.
I’m really grateful to have a teacher who knows to teach something really difficult that will carry the student toward freedom if it’s pursued. It’s unusual in this day and time. Usually, what’s expected is hearing, it’s ok if it’s too hard and oh yes you were so injured it makes sense why you can’t do those things and to make that listener feel better about staying right where they are. I think that’s fine for our friends and family. But a true teacher shows what may be possible if we can dare to make some change. “You cannot change and stay the same.” Manouso Manos