Years ago I had osteoarthritis of both hips. I had hip replacement surgery in 2010 and have gone from strength to strength since then.
However the period when I was first diagnosed was hell for me. My ego felt crushed like a stepped-on grape. I was convinced that the orthopaedic surgeon’s diagnosis spelled career suicide for me as a yoga teacher. The idea of my sporting artificial hips filled me with dread and resistance.
I certainly didn’t want any yoga students to know I was less than perfect. I only wanted to present a healthy, ever-youthful image. That is what a yoga teacher is meant to be, isn’t it? I had put myself on the pedestal and wasn’t ready to step down.
Woody Allen told this story about one of his ex-wives. When they were courting and first married, he placed her on a pedestal. Then, when they divorced, he put her under the pedestal.
That’s the trouble with setting yourself up to carry people’s projections: they become burdensome and entrap you.
As my arthritis became worse, I couldn’t carry anything heavy, like shopping bags. I definitely couldn’t carry people’s weighty projections.
I started to be more obviously dependent on others for assistance. This coincided with ‘outing’ myself. I even wrote articles for yoga magazine and journals about me, yoga and arthritis.
The truth is that we all are going to be sick from tlime to time. Maybe we’ll even get a disease. Some of us will get to grow old. And one day each of us will die. There really is no escape.
That knowledge is a great platform to stand on. It’s a firm one in the way a pedestal can’t be because acknowledging our mortality is real.
Yoga isn’t an insurance policy. It won’t save us. But being constant in our practice is undoubtably fruitful. I can attest to a speedy and thorough rehabilitation post-surgery. This was due to the outstanding physical therapy I underwent. But I know that the mindset I have is something I cultivated in yoga.
Suffering an injury or medical condition is a hard way to learn that the pedestal isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. I don’t need to be under or above the pedestal. It’s just fine to be human.