when given a lemon, make a margarita!

this has been a really interesting week for me. i experienced two events that were completely unexpected and out of the ordinary. although small in comparison to life’s real big challenges- from one perspective, these events came to me as obstacles- out of my control, and without warning. although uncomfortable at first, i took these events to heart, and decided to see the positive lessons contained within… and in shifting my perspective, i had a truly great experience i would like to share here. in making that conscious decision to shift my perspective, i was able to experience these two small challenges as amazing gifts from the universe… which taught me a lesson in how to embrace the unpredictable, mysterious situations in life…

the first: on monday afternoon, i had a really bad fall. the road i live on is unevenly paved. as i was walking the dog, my foot caught the edge of the pavement, and my ankle twisted sharply to the side. i heard a loud POP- as i stepped hard on the outer edge of my ankle- and i went down. it happened extremely fast- snap/ waves of pain/ in a split second/ the blink of an eye! this whole event was such a HUGE surprise to me- as i strive to be diligent and conscious of my body in my asana practice. my initial reaction? i was pissed! i was angry! i thought: “How could this be?” … “What the heck?” … ”I strive to be graceful/ strong/ conscious/ awake in my yoga practice- i am a yoga teacher! with such good body awareness, how is it possible that in one moment, i could sprain my ankle?” …

eventually  i was able to stand up, and i started to waddle slowly home. each step was quite painful. i reminded myself to breathe. the more i connected with deep breath, the more i could keep my mind calm and controlled- and just focus on each step, bringing me closer and closer to my front door. on my way through the hills and curves in my neighborhood, i couldn’t help but think: ”What is the universe trying to tell me? What in the world does this mean?”

It took me awhile to recover from the initial wave of denial and pain, but eventually, i was able to turn this challenge around in my mind. Instead of staying angry at my situation, i decided to see the positive in it. All my injuries have been my greatest teachers, teaching me how to deal with pain/ suffering, how to heal and rehabilitate my body through yoga, and how to be more knowledgeable in teaching my students. this week, i have learned so much about how to walk slowly and consciously, how to adjust my posture and yoga practice to negotiate for this physical limitation- and to truly understand from an embodied experience the benefits of Rest- Ice- Compression- Elevation (yes, “R.I.C.E” really does work, and it feels amazing!). i’ve felt myself wanting to avoid the pain in my ankle- yet by shifting the weight onto my other leg, it created intense stiffness and discomfort in my opposite hip. at first, i was embarrassed to teach with this injury- to walk into my class with my ankle brace on and hobble around the room- but i turned it around in my mind and thought: well, this is an excellent opportunity for me to model for my students how we can be with our injuries/ limitations, how to be with pain, and still practice yoga. i was even able to connect with a few of my students who are also recovering from injuries- how it’s less about these injuries restricting us, and more a lesson in how we decide to react and deal with the situation that we are presented. we can move toward healing and recovery in a mature and open minded way, in learning to appreciate that the ways of the universe are out of our hands, and that we can learn to accept the unpredictable.

(yes, that’s the real color of my foot! it looks like a rainbow watercolor!!!)

the second: on wednesday morning, i showed up to teach the early 6:30 am yoga class, and in the dark, was joined by a gathering group of yogis. we were outside the yoga studio for awhile, but no one came to unlock the door. after a couple of calls, i figured out that the person who was to open the studio was on their way, but was stuck in terrible LA traffic. instead of getting angry or frustrated, i said, “let’s sit together and meditate!” it was amazing to sit on the sidewalk that i have walked on hundreds of times on my way to the yoga studio! in all the years i have practiced and taught in LA, i had never sat down, with a circle of yogis, to practice at the ‘foot of the temple.’ we heard the sounds of traffic, and pedestrians starting their day… and yet, even with the early morning city noise, we were able to connect with our breath and steady our minds. after a while, we decided to begin our asana practice- so… into sun salutations we went! it was a delight to guide these true yogis in their practice under the sky that was slowly brightening into day- to hear their sounds of surprise when the pavement came close to their faces in chatturanga!!! and to connect to all the sensations of being in this different environment: feeling the cement under their hands… the cool morning air on their skin… the sounds and smells of the morning… i waved to the CVS truck driver as he passed slowly by, watching us. i was struck by how these incredible yogis were so flexible, mature and non-attached, as to enter their practice from this new environment. and many of them did so with a smile on their face! when our beloved yogi arrived with the key, allowing us to enter the studio and into the yoga room, it was truly a remarkable experience. inside was so serene, peaceful and silent- it gave us a renewed appreciation of this wonderful sanctuary we practice in every day, and i think it deepened their practice in a really unique way. i was truly impressed with these yogis, able to embrace the discomfort of beginning their practice on the sidewalk- and a few of them told me after class how much they actually enjoyed that it happened! i was so pleased with this experience, it had me smiling with such an open, joyful heart through the rest of the day.

as i sat down to write this, i remembered an important practice that is described in Patanjali’s yoga sutras (one of the crucial ancient texts that describe the elements and practice of yoga): Sutra 2.33. Vitarka Badhane Pratipaksa Bhavanam, “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana.” (Satchidanada). it’s amazing to think how the ancient yogis understood this concept thousands of years ago, and that this ancient knowledge is still extremely useful and effective for helping us reduce our suffering. its not easy to be human, and encounter all the incredibly difficult situations of being alive- but its a relief to have a practice like this available to us. when given an obstacle, its our choice how we deal with it. it is certainly a refined, mature practice to turn our thoughts from the negative into the positive… to be given a challenging situation and see it as an opportunity for personal growth and positivity. instead of resisting, clinging, or struggling with challenging situations as if they are poison, we can welcome and even embrace the unexpected… let us raise our glasses, and drink in the mystery… celebrating the challenges of life as divine substance, and receive their healing lessons as nourishment.

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