Several years ago in a hot yoga class in the middle of winter I pulled both of my hamstring attachments.
At the time I didn’t know I was doing it. The room was so warm and steamy and the forward fold felt really good.
Also the instructor (who I kinda had a girl crush on) was praising me loudly for how “deep” my fold was… which compelled me to pull on my toes even more and nestle my face snugly between my shins.
I didn’t feel anything when it happened. I just knew I was going “deeper” than ever before.
It wasn’t until later that night, back in my chilly apartment, that my butt was suddenly on fire!
Holy Tallulah! I thought, I hope this is gone by tomorrow! I’ve got classes to teach and poses to demo!
Alas, it was NOT gone the next day, or the next, or the next, or the next.
As the days past, I was cautious about doing anything that would stretch those attachments. I knew exactly what I had done wrong…. but I was also in denial of what I’d have to do to fully heal.
So much of my professional identity was bound up in being able to do awe-inspiring physical feats, while also being very in-tune with my body.
I had warned students over and over against forward folding too far in hot yoga classes. I had warned them against listening to their teacher’s praise over the cues from their bodies.
And there I was, an example of exactly what I knew NOT to do.
Because I wasn’t able to acknowledge my own mental disconnect from my body, I lost confidence in my physical self. I felt my body had betrayed me.
Over the next few months, the hamstrings would slowly begin to heal, then the second I felt progress I would overstretch them again and go right back to that butt on fire feeling.
Pulling the tendons that attach your hamstring muscles to your ischial tuberosities is a slow-healing injury. My urge to rush the process was actually prolonging it.
Until the day I finally faced the facts and stopped the cycle of re-injury.
It was two days before getting on an airplane to Costa Rica to cohost a retreat on a gorgeous property in the rainforest overlooking the ocean. Again, I demo’d a forward fold in a class, thinking it felt ‘good’, wanting it to be fine, but it wasn’t.
When I got on the plane and sat down next to fellow teacher Evalena, it hurt to sit. And there were hours to go…
My butt was so inflamed that I was constantly squirming from side to side.
My butt is on fire! I exclaimed to Evalena, and we had a nice humorous dialogue about it as the plane traversed from the US into Central America.
We laughed about how, even when we humans know what’s best for us, we will still re-injure ourselves – magically thinking it won’t happen again. Believing we can will it not to happen again.
By airing it out with Evalena, I finally stepped out of denial, got my own message and stopped the cycle.
During that retreat my pose demoing was dramatically reduced. I could only do the most modest versions of warrior poses, triangle poses, and any kind of forward folds.
In this gorgeous place, in the humid rainforest air, where it would be the most delicious thing in the world to just be able to streeeetch in every single direction….
Instead my practice was much, much, smaller and simpler.
This story is not unique to me.
Many of my colleagues, students, mentors, and peers have been through the same cycle of injuring and re-injuring themselves. Until they finally face facts and change how they’re treating their body.
You see, it’s never the body that is the problem. It is the way we use it, what we expect from it, and the physical red flags we avoid or ignore.
My confidence took a hit around that time. But when I reconstituted how to listened to my body and practice, it came back stronger than ever.
I realized I could not compromise on finding the practice that was truly ideal for my physical form. And this was actually a really exciting breakthrough!
It meant more props, more basic conditioning, more focus on the inner experience than the outer extremes.
By changing my practice I changed my body as well.
Other aches and pains associated with overuse and over-stretching disappeared and were replaced with genuine stability in my joints and a heightened ability to sense my actual “edge“.
A big fancy word for this is coherence. Coherence between what my mind knew, my body felt, and the actions and behaviors I chose going forward.
I wonder if you have ever lost confidence in your body? Or felt that your body has betrayed you at times? Or felt left out when you couldn’t participate in some form of fitness or stretching because you knew it ultimately wouldn’t suit you?
It sucks in the moment. But it doesn’t have to be the end of your story.
It can be the beginning of a new story of genuine self-respect and care for your body.
My online embodiment program honors those hard lessons from the past decade.
Props, simple conditioning exercises, more emphasis on what you bring to your practice than what you get from it… That’s the path back to confidence in your physical self.
At least it’s the best path I’ve found so far.
If this speaks to you, sign up and join me for a month of practice. Feel the difference.
And don’t ever turn your back on your body again…
Best wishes always,