There’s a little dog that lives behind a chain link fence on my street – an energetic little Jack Russell terrier named Buck. Buck shares his yard with Christie, a Basset Hound-Lab mix who is quite possibly the slowest moving dog on the planet. Christie spends most of her day sitting in stunned bewilderment by the whirling dervish that is Buck.
Every single day, Buck chases my car, misjudges the end of the yard, and runs full speed – head first – into the concrete foundation of the house next door. Every. Single. Day. One must wonder if Buck says to himself, “Even though I hurt my head whenever I do this, someday, I WILL catch this car.”
It’s a shame that Buck isn’t enrolled in our teacher training program, for last weekend we studied the kleshas. Explained in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (book II), the kleshas are five obstacles that keep us from becoming our true selves. Klesha #1, Avidya, is false perception – or the inability to see things for what they are. Klesha #3, Raga, is attachment. I think it’s safe to say that all of us –including Buck – struggle with these at some point or another.
One of the great things about the study of yoga is that it makes it clearer for practitioners to see how attachment to a particular outcome can result in suffering. I’ve had chronic shoulder inflammation for the past three years, which I’m convinced was caused by the absurd amount of jump backs and chatturunga I did in my early thirties. After a year of caring for the injury with rest, physical therapy and massage, I was finally beginning to feel pain free.
Naturally, then, me and my renewed shoulder mobility headed to Troy Lucero’s advanced class on one of the snow days last month, where I attacked chatturunga with gusto! I was feeling great: Jumping back and fully committing to every single vinyasa. “Woo hoo,” I congratulated myself. “ I’m back!”
The next day, of course, I couldn’t move my shoulder.
Some days, I feel like Buck.
A week later I was back at my physical therapist’s office, where the receptionist informed me that Lonnie, my PT, was on vacation and his replacement would be right out. I was instantly irritated; couldn’t she see how attached I was to my therapist?! Why wasn’t I warned when I made my appointment?
I was still stewing in my annoyance when, my new boyfriend therapist rounded the corner and called my name. Good God, could it be possible that a Calvin Klein underwear model was moonlighting as a PT? Well, then. Lonnie who?
On the table, Franchesco informed me that the repetitive motion of chatturunga was creating inflammation in my rotator cuff. This I knew, of course, but feigned ignorance so I could hear him speak in his Italian accent. In the course of the appointment, I also learned that Franchesco raced sports cars in his spare time, collected wine and, get this, loves yoga.
At the end of the appointment, Franchesco suggested we meet again. Soon. (OK, he said I could use another appointment this week.) So on my way out, when the front desk asked when I’d like to come back, I thought: “Well, yes, let’s do schedule our next date appointment now.”
All joking aside, when will learn that my attachment to the way my shoulders “used to be” is creating nothing but suffering and pain, literally? Even though I knew better, in one class that was motivated by my ego, I’d managed to undo many months of shoulder rehab and land right back where I was a year ago.
Now, I’m entertaining (not committed yet) the idea of letting go of chatturunga. Even though intuitively I know that the pose no longer serves me, my ego isn’t ready yet to agree. Perhaps, after a few more study weekends, and a couple more face plants into the house next door, my ego-self and my intuitive-self might arrive at an understanding.
* Chatturunga warning: Multiple chaturangas can create repetitive use syndrome or other injuries. As a vinyasa studio, we at Twist Yoga do our fair share of the ½ series (chaturunga, up dog, down dog). Although they are a great way to generate heat, please know there are risks of overuse and injuries associated with the posture. We always encourage anyone, healthy shoulders or not, to opt out of chatturunga if it doesn’t feel right. Or, ask your instructor for a good alternative.