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The Uniquely Limited And Injury-Riddled View From My Yoga Mat

in Yogitorials

This post is part of our YogaDork State of the Union series sharing reflections on 2014 and holding intentions and predictions for 2015.


by Neal Pollack

A couple of nights ago, my dear friend YogaDork sent me an email asking me to give my prognostications, predictions, resolutions, hopes, and possibly dreams for yoga in 2015. In other words, she was looking for a sort of State Of The Yoga Union. Since yoga means “union” in some translations, she was actually asking for a State of the Union Union, wocka wocka.

Five years ago, when I was a crack freelance reporter for the Yoga Journal, traveling to conferences and Wanderlusts and attending classes given by L.A.’s trendiest teachers, I might have been able to provide some perspective, or at least to make fun of MC Yogi and Michael Franti, the yin and yang of terrible pop yoga music. But now I’ve moved away from yoga central, so I don’t know exactly what’s going on in the scene. From my social media feed, it appears that, as usual, people are doing yoga and being needlessly neurotic about it.

These days, I mostly do yoga by myself, in my office, with the aid of Yogaglo, an excellent website that recently underwent a questionable redesign. I’m accompanied only by a flatulent old Boston Terrier, who mostly sleeps on my blankets and has recently urinated on my mat twice, stopping my practice dead. So my vision of yoga is quite limited. At the moment, it’s taking in my grotesquely swollen left ankle, which has made asana practice impossible.

It’s been quite a journey to my hideous grapefruit ankle. In mid-December, for a magazine story, I spent two nights sleeping on an Army cot in an experimental disaster-relief shelter in the middle of the Texas Hill Country. This is true. The cot messed up my back, knocking my left sacroiliac joint so far out of whack that it appeared that my torso was sliding off the lower half of my body. I’d had this kind of injury before, so I knew how to rehab it.

Unfortunately, part of that rehab involved a restorative pose where I draped myself over a bolster and folded my knees to the side. I found this pose so relaxing that I fell asleep in it for 45 minutes. When I awoke to a shooting pain in my inner left knee, I knew that I had restored nothing. Instead, I had strained my MCL, again. On went the elastic knee brace, and there went pretty much everything but headstand right out the damn window.

After a few days, my knee improved, so I did a knee-strengthening class on Yogaglo. The teacher had me flex and point my feet, flex and point. After one flex (or point), I noticed that my ankle had become bulbous, so much so that standing on it was actually painful. This had not been a problem 15 minutes earlier, when I’d rolled out my mat. I showed my horribly swollen ankle to my wife, who looked very concerned and started doing research on possible side effects of spider bites. In a bonus-drug moment, I took a Benadryl and fell asleep while watching “Jeopardy!”

But I wasn’t bitten by a spider, radioactive or otherwise. I also don’t have gout, or, as my own Google searches indicate, pseudo-gout. It’s just decay. Whether I practice fast or slow, strong or gentle, yin or yang, I am a used car and I have problems. These, I can pretty much guarantee, will not lessen as my body ages toward death.

Regardless, I’ll continue to practice yoga in one form or another every day, or at least nearly every day. It will be nothing fancy, that’s for sure. You won’t see me rotating my legs all around my body from tabletop pose, which I watched Kino MacGregor do in a crazy-ass video last week, and you sure as shit won’t see me “flip my dog” (not a real pose). When my body malfunctions, which it almost always does, I will meditate and take nidra naps and go to boring lectures about the yugas and follow two different Swami Satchidananda Twitter accounts. Why? Because I’m a yogi for life. The practice has boundless benefits. All the dipsy-doo poses are just a frosting.

Whatever form yoga takes in 2015, or beyond, I will be there, if only because I have no other choice. The disease is the cure. And maybe I’ll put some ice on that ankle.


Neal Pollack is the author of many bestselling books, including Stretch: The Unlikely Making Of A Yoga Dude, and the Matt Bolster yoga mysteries Downward-Facing Death and Open Your Heart. His new book, a time-traveling romantic comedy called Repeat, will be published by Amazon’s Lake Union Books in March. 



3 comments… add one
  • April

    Thanks for this, Neal. I received your book, Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude, for Christmas and flew right through it. Reading your story and point of view has made me really examine my authenticity as a yogini, teacher, and person. Thank you for the reminder that the effective teachers have certainly explored the ether, but remain accessible, down to earth, and unpretentious.

    Happy healing to that ankle,

    PS – I also have a Boston Terrier who enjoys farting and peeing where I wish he wouldn’t. But I’ll be damned if he doesn’t have more personality and charisma than some humans I know!

  • Thank God for a testimony with as little posturing as a dude with a sprained ankle, a twisted back and an audience dog could possible muster. Thanks for keeping it real.

  • Hi,
    Thanks for this. As a newbie yogi with my first injury I found comfort in your greater experience and better retention of your sense of humour than I could muster!

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