I had been talking with my work colleague Margaret about running and saying that I needed to get back to some kind of yoga practice. This was a couple of years before I’d left New York, so around 2002. It was wintertime.
“I’ve been going to Bikram,” she said. “It’s just a few blocks away, the other side of Times Square. Come with me one day, I love it.”
Margaret also loved doing spontaneous 10Ks and half-marathons that she never really trained for. Her motto was “if you can walk the next day, you didn’t run hard enough.”
“What’s a Bikram?” I asked, handing over a stack of presentation slides I had just prepared for her team.
“It’s yoga in a warm room,” she said. “I’m going next Monday. I’ll sign you up.”
A “we’ll see” turned into a “why not?” and the next Monday we were trudging across midtown in a wintery mix, trying not to slip in the icy slush.
I am standing in tadasana, the mountain pose. I feel more like a recently-transplanted, withering old wobbly tree whose roots haven’t quite taken, but a mountain is what we’re going for and a mountain it is.
My feet are planted firmly at the top of the ratty purple yoga mat I keep at home. The one that the cats like to scratch on. If I look out to the side, I can see the Mediterranean beckoning me through the morning haze. “Wouldn’t you like to be relaxing near me? Perhaps sipping a cafe con leche at the chiringuito? But I look ahead. A pop-art Buddha I got in Siem Reap sits atop the TV stand we got from IKEA. He reminds me to focus.
I make sure I’m in the proper position. Feet parallel, big toes touching at the top of the mat. I fan my toes to the best of my ability, which has never been all that great. I engage my thighs and think about rotating them slightly inward. Everything lifts up. Core is engaged. I shrug my shoulders and let them fall down and back. A quick tilt of the pelvis towards the legs makes sure I am aligned correctly.
I take a slow, deep breath and am ready to begin the first movement of Sun Salute A, aka Surya Namaskara A.
I pause. It’s been a while since I’ve done this. It’s not like I don’t know how. It’s not like I haven’t done literally hundreds, if not thousands, of these in the last 20 or so years. It’s not like I didn’t do around 40 of them a week for a few months when I started Ashtanga last December. Then I tore my adductor in February. A torn adductor does not a happy asana make.
I’ve been thinking about restarting my practice for several weeks now. I know I’m better, but I also am well aware I’m not fully recovered. Like my groin, my mind is torn between knowing the yoga could help me heal faster, but could also re-aggravate the injury if I’m not careful. And so I’ve been, perhaps, erring on the side of caution. I don’t exaggerate when I say I am petrified of pulling something new, or fucking up an injury that hasn’t quite healed, or just being in pain. There’s been too much pain the past several months. I’m not used to it. Nor do I want to put myself in a situation where I have to get used to it.