Off the Mat, onto the Asphalt

“Life will bring you to your knees and rip you open in ways that will allow you to love. It is your heartbreak that will teach you compassion.” ― Seane Corn

“Aaaaaaaah, my knee!” — Me

I was riding home from a yoga class when it happened. I didn’t want to obey the stop sign–as I otherwise almost always do–and turned right, waiting for an oil tanker to go by, then I was to hang a U-turn and then turn right–thus going through an intersection without having to stop. (A typical move for a bicyclist with toe clips or clipless cleats who doesn’t want to go through the hassle of unclipping, or someone with peddles who is just tired and doesn’t want to come to a complete stop. It turns out there was a sedan right behind me. So when I executed the U-turn, his bumper hit my left knee and down I went.

I was lucky; he wasn’t traveling very fast and was right behind me. In fact, when he hit me I actually tried to stay on top of my bike. I ultimately lost my balance extended my freshly-traumatized leg and down I went. Within a minute I was back up and testing the strength of my left leg. I could stand on it, so it wasn’t broken. But it hurt like hell.

I bitched to the very sorry driver but soon figured out this was all my fault. When the driver and I parted ways, I opted to walk my bike for a short while to get it out of the intersection and call my wife who did not pick up or reply to the text message that followed. My son also did not respond to my call and text. It’s kind of funny, we have these mobile phones to stay connected, and in times like these they sure do come in handy, but when these post-modern technological wonders are needed the most, it is often the case they are as helpful as a phone booth without any spare change.

After walking my bike up a hill in pain. I realized riding my bike was a better option–I wouldn’t be putting nearly as much weight on the knee. So I rode home with relative ease. When I walked in the door wife and my son were sitting at the kitchen table like nothing was the matter until I told them to look at their phones. “Oh my gosh, are you alright?” Delayed reaction comedy.

I took the next day off hobbling around the house doped up on ibuprofen. When Sunday afternoon rolled around, I had my wife drive me to yoga. One thing about yoga that you can’t say about most exercise regimes is that you always feel better after a practice than before it, even if you feel like shit when you started. Not this time, though. I got through the class alright, but walking to the locker room, I felt like I had been cracked across the knee with one of those pipe wrenches. Maybe that’s a little over-the-top. Let’s just say it hurt a lot more after the practice than before.

seane cornI limped through the week riding my bike to work and back, but hitting the ibuprofen and acetaminophen probably too often. I skipped the four yoga classes that week and felt depressed about that. Yoga does not work–for me at least–the way vigorous aerobic exercise or weight-training does for others–stimulating the release of endorphins in the bloodstream, but there is a definite psychological effect when a regular routine has halted. Seane Corn, world-famous Vinyasa Yoga teacher, life coach, and co-founder of the activist group Off the Mat, Into the World, once said, “Yoga is a necessary tool for the survival of myself and others. I need to get on the mat every day – it doesn’t matter how long – 15 minutes, 1 hour, 4 hours…or else I’ll pull the head off of someone I love.” I don’t practice every day like I keep saying I am going to, but going from practicing four times a week to zero times has definitely put me in a funk.

When I had to skip the Thursday class, one week after the accident, I couldn’t stand it any kneelonger and setup an appointment to see a doctor on the following Monday. After the doctor looked at my knee and examined the subsequent x-rays, it was determined there was “no evidence of acute fracture or malalignment…” Great news especially considering I got hit by a car!

The doctor’s Rx–besides ibuprofen– is applying a heating pad several times a day and wearing a compression sleeve. I still haven’t got the heating pad, but I wear the compression sleeve most of my waking hours, and I hate it. What’s worse, eating has replaced yoga. This doesn’t have to be the case, but it is currently filling a void.

Twelve days after the accident I showed up at my Tuesday Noon Ananda Yoga class–a low impact class where Brenda, a local teacher comes to our work where a small group of fellow employees practices with her. At first, it seemed the easier routine was going to work, but at the end of the class, I knew I still wasn’t ready. I signed up and paid for the next five weeks anyway and told Brenda I would donate my slot to whomever I could get to take my place if I didn’t feel up to it next week and maybe the week after that. I was touched by her encouraging words. She told me she would use some to some chair yoga postures from the Sunlight Chair Yoga book by Stacy Dooreck I had told her about a year ago. Karma!

I can relate to Seane Corn’s “need to get on the mat” even if it isn’t a need to practice every day. I admire Seane’s wisdom, skill, exuberance, and seemingly boundless positive energy. Anyway, I look at it, I need to get back on the mat!

Observations from the Mat #4: When the inevitable happened

I’m getting up there in age; things aren’t as tight down there as they used to be (Too much information? If so, the reader should go no further.). Too, while yoga has a way of working out the tight muscles it also has a way of working out other things–like gas. It happens to many practitioners. It’s all over YouTube.com. (See below.) It happened to an attractive older lady who often practices behind me in the classes I take. It has also happened more than once to the guy in shaded glasses who’s mat is often next to mine. Shit happens–er, well close enough.

So on the rare occasions when I hear toots, farts, poots, or whatever you call them, in class, it usually breaks my concentration, and I think, “Oh, that’s embarrassing.” It has happened to me before, but I was in some posture close to the mat so at the last second I was able to quickly sit on it like falling on a grenade. Did anyone else hear it? I guessed not.

Usually, I get a warning, and when I’d feel one coming, I’d go into DNF (Do Not Fart) mod tossing the Soham mantra out of my mind, tighten my ass cheeks, and concentrating on imploding the thing before it escapes to my utter embarrassment. I doubt this shift in concentration benefits my practice, but it is an emergency. When my lower GI somehow deals with the bubble, I go back to my mantra. Sometimes it never does, and I think to myself, can I let it go when everyone is saying “Namaste” at the end of the practice? No, I put away my mat, blocks, and blanket, waddle into the men’s locker room and dispatch the bad wind, but what if I can’t control one? What if one gets away from me?

Last Thursday night that is exactly what happened.

Yoga pose downward-facing dogI didn’t feel it coming. There was no time to go into DNF mod. Worse, I was in Downward Facing Dog–probably the worst possible posture to be in when this happens. (You don’t know why that is a critical position to be in when DNF mod is not engaged? See the embedded image.)

I suppose I could have had this accident without ever stepping on a yoga mat. Flatulence increases with age. Digestion slows down, and food moves through the gut more slowly creating more gas. It probably does not help that I’m a walking CVS, with my anti-seizure meds, thyroid med, statin, and maybe even the supplements I take to combat the number some of the meds does to my bone density plays a part.

Finally, there’s my Hoover-like eating style: I’m probably taking in too much air as I rip through my meals. It is ironic that this blog started, in part, as a review of local hamburger joints, but I eat so fast I often would forget to really taste the thing I was supposed to be evaluating. Add to this cocktail the spinal twists and other asanas of yoga probably work as a flatulence accelerant–like gas on the smoldering fire, this is my fart factory GI system.

After the practice, I skulked away, took a shower and quietly left the club. As I exited the building that night, my yoga teacher was sitting near the bike rack as if waiting for me. We immediately struck up a conversation first about bicycle commuting and then yoga. I kept thinking he was going to give me some comforting words about farting during practice which would have been horrible. He didn’t, and I appreciated that, but I still wondered why he was ready to ride off but was sitting there like he was waiting for someone.

Like most of the yoga practitioners at my gym, all those YouTube video yogis, and in the glossy pages of Yoga Journal, it looks like a pastime for younger people–though I know that is not completely true. I still feel a little older after Thursday night’s event. I told my wife after I heard my first “yoga fart” a couple of years ago that if that ever happened to me I would immediately stop group practices and buy a Seane Corn or Rodney Yee DVD and start my home practice. It is turning out that I think I can show up Thursday without feeling too embarrassed. Too, I attempted a home practice a few times and found, if I don’t have somewhere to go I’ll find an excuse to watch TV. I’m not sure what I’ll do if I break wind during my Tuesday Noon class, though–that’s at my job and everyone knows me. Good lord!

Over the years I have spoken to older men who will break wind in mid-sentence and without shame say, “Excuse me,” and go on with what they were saying as if they sneezed. That’s the future me, I guess. I hope I can pull those unfortunate events off with the same grace and nonchalance. If so I may end up a master yogi, and also, I’m afraid, a great breaker of wind.