The Gift of My Injuries

By Shanna Small of Ashtanga Picture Project




My Hamstring is okay now. As you can see.

My practice ceased being just physical when I got my first injury 5 years ago. My teachers taught me about the 8 limbs of yoga but it didn’t really hit until I dealt with the crushing humility of injury. I was not doing anything crazy. I was going about my normal  practice and doing Upavishta Konasana(seated wide leg straddle), a pose that I had been doing at least 3 times a week for about 5 years already, when my left hamstring ripped. I literally heard it when it happened.  My teacher was not pushing on me. I had no prior injuries. My hamstrings were super open.  The class was not hot. I had felt no pain prior. There was none of the warning signs that  the  “yoga shouldn’t hurt you” crew said would be there.  Actually, I felt amazing and I was having a beautiful practice. One second I felt great. Next second I was in pain.


Photo by Wanda Koch


My next injury was my knees. For this one, some one did push on me.  But as Gandhi  or Maya Angelou or somebody smart said,

Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” ~Not sure. To lazy to look it up.

She followed protocol to the letter. She asked me if I had any injuries and how I was feeling. I said, “I was awesome.” Which I absolutely was. I had been working with her for months. She knew me and my practice. No pain and feeling fine. She assisted me and then death and destruction occurred.Wideleg

I had always seen my practice  as moving meditation but it felt that way because it was…well…easy. When everything is rosy and perfect, it is easy to be joyful and happy.  Now that my body had pain, the real yoga had to begin. As patanjali says, “yoga chitti vritti nirodaha”, “yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind”. Every practice was a fight with my negative thoughts around my new practice reality.  I was miserable. I no longer looked forward to my practice and many days, I  would walk away from my mat in tears.

Many awakenings happen from a place of darkness. You get to the point where you cannot take it anymore and you are forced to surrender.  I had to admit that it was possible that I would never fully regain my mobility and that I may be a gimp for life 🙂 I had two choices, either give up yoga entirely or accept my now reality.   For my new practice to be born, my old one had to die.

“Hope is the enemy of the now”-Eckhart Tolle

That is when I really began to study yoga not just asana. Coming face to face with my bodies limitations made me delve deeper into  the limitlessness of spirit. My body will always be finite so why was I trying so hard to connect to something so illusory and transitory? I needed to connect to that which never dies. The energy that cannot be created or destroyed. The real me. My injuries catapulted me into the spiritual realm of yoga study. No matter what is going on with my body, I know that the self remains pure and that if I can be fully present, I can connect to it.


PS. I totally have to take pictures of me doing “knee” stuff but while they are still a thorn in my side, they are much better. As long as it is not raining, a full moon, a new moon and all the planets line up, I can put my leg behind my head and do full lotus LOL. Touch and Go.


Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *