When Injury Strikes
Over Christmas, I managed to get an injury. And while I would love to tell a fun and festive tale of how it happened, the reality is that I sprained my ankle running with the dogs on the beach, which I am pretty sure is just karma for trying to be virtuous at that time of year! It's not the first time I have been injured since becoming a teacher and each time its a potent reminder of how fragile (whilst also resilient) our bodies can be. I remember being terrified the first time I was injured, fearing how I could possibly continue to teach properly if I couldn't rely on my body to demonstrate. And that's where my first learning around teaching with an injury came from. Over time, there have been more learnings too, so I wanted to share them with you!
1) Use your voice, not your body
It's not really an option for most people to just stop teaching when they're injured. So I was immediately tested by my first injury in my ability to cue a class without using my own body. As an expressive person in general conversation, I realised quickly that not only did I demonstrate physically but I tend to wave my arms etc a lot during class too. Take all this away and what you are left with is your voice. Suddenly I realised that teaching without my physical body wasn't a compromise but in fact an opportunity for great growth and development of my language skills.
If you are nervous about this, perhaps you can invite a friend or regular student to demonstrate at the front of the class. Try asking the studio if needed, and perhaps they’ll allow you to give .a ‘free’ class to your helper. And obviously it goes without saying that this only makes sense if someone has a strong practice and/or knows your teaching style!
2) Getting back on the mat after injury is humbling. And with that I felt a greater sense of understanding and compassion for the challenges of some students, particularly those working with long term physical challenges, or those stepping on the mat for the first time. As much as we try to be compassionate towards our students, there is no denying that as we become more and more experienced in our personal practice, there is a natural distance from the felt sense of what it is to struggle with the foundations. Trying to stand on one leg or flexing my ankle in any direction after a bad sprain took my right back to where I began. A wobbly, distracted practice, doing my best to let my ego dissolve and laugh at the humbling it all brought.
3) To insure or not to insure?
I do many things to look after both my physical and mental wellbeing. However, I probably do take my health for granted sometimes and continue without thinking how lucky I am to be well. The realty is, that if we look after ourselves, we are likely to live a healthy life, but there are other factors in the equation that do pose a risk, and accidents do happen. What if I lost the ability to teach altogether? I don't say this from a place of fear, but just in recognition of possibility. This is something that I hadn't really thought responsibly about before, but after a conversation recently with someone who works in insurance for freelancers or non-traditional jobs, I am now intrigued as to what the options might be to protect myself and my income against injury or illness. As I learn more, I will share.
There are many challenges that come from an injury, not just in our teaching but in our personal practice too. Notice to the voices in your head, the things they try to tell you when your injured. Trust your instinct and never push through. Some incredible teachers can command a class from a seated meditation pose for 90 mins. I am not suggesting we try that, but there is great opportunity in every challenge. Seize it, but also don’t be afraid to ask for support.
I would love to hear your comments and experiences. Let’s get talking. Are you on the whatsapp group and facebook page? This community is all about support and conversation so join us!