NotSoZen YogaJen

In Yoga Withdrawal & Hanging Out With Ben Gay

Posted on: October 4, 2010

I’ve been on a yoga rampage and going to five or six classes a week.  I count on these classes to calm my anxiety, clear my mind, give me energy and focus, and reconnect me with myself.  Yoga classes give structure to my days, and I schedule which class I want to take and when far in advance, and then plan the rest of my day around that.

But on Friday, there was a kink in my plan.  Or rather, a kink in my back.  It started out in class as a brief surge of pain in my arm, but then I felt fine.  On Saturday morning I woke up and the kink was back in my arm.  But, I told myself, set on going to my pre-scheduled 10am intense Vinyasa yoga class, it could go either way.  Yoga could make it feel worse, but it could stretch it out and make it feel better.  The only thing is, I’ve had this thought many times in the past, and going to yoga with a tweaked out anything always, always makes it feel worse.

So early on in saluting the sun on Saturday morning, the pain spread from my arm to my back, and from an ow to an OW!  There was no avoiding/denying it any longer.  I would have to cozy up with Ben Gay and take a break from yoga until I felt un-tweaked and un-OW-ed again.

I have perhaps, possibly, casually, once or twice, maybe mentioned my yoga addiction.  Now, I’m not doing yoga by myself in a dark closet, or guzzling coconut water out of brown bag.  Yet.  But I am addicted to yoga, and I crave it.  I tell myself that I need yoga classes to have the calm, centeredness, energy, and clarity that I need for the rest of my life.  I tell myself that without my almost daily yoga classes, things (me), might (definitely) start to fall apart.

But now, here I am.  The yoga break is working to heal me, and the tweak has lessened, and moved from my back to now only my neck.  But it is still there and it is still OW, so I am on Day 2 of no yoga, and I am not feeling better enough yet to start penciling which classes I will take into my calendar for the rest of the week.  My heating pad is at the ready, and the faint, but oddly pleasant, aroma of Ben Gay permeates my apartment.

And yet.  I feel calm.  Centered.  And clear.  My mind is quiet, and I’m not anxious.  And without the 3 1/2- 4 hour chunk of time that yoga sometimes takes up, between commuting to a studio in Manhattan and taking a class, I have a lot more time in my day to focus on things that I may or may not have been avoiding.  Like my writing.  The absolute inability to even think about going to yoga class has mixed up my routine and freed up time in my schedule for my other passions that sometimes take a backseat when I am on a yoga bender.

This injury and subsequent forced abstinence from yoga class reminded me that:  1)  Asana is only a small piece of yoga and it is possible to take yoga “off the mat” and practice it in other ways, mentally and spiritually, in day-to-day life, and 2)  The effects of yoga are cumulative, and lasting, so that even if I can’t get to class for a few days, I am not going to lose the benefits of calm, centeredness, and clarity.

I am still in a bit of yoga withdrawal and excitedly anticipating getting back to class.  But I’m not sweating and curled up in the fetal position under my desk, and I don’t have the shakes or anything.  And I can see and feel the benefits of taking this break, mixing up my routine, and having time and energy for other pursuits, all while continuing to practice my yoga in different, non-physical or athletic ways and still maintaining a calm, centered, and clear yogic mind.

How do you deal with injuries that force you to slow down?  How do you feel when you can’t get to yoga class for whatever reason?  How do you then practice yoga in other ways besides asana?


6 Responses to "In Yoga Withdrawal & Hanging Out With Ben Gay"

Hi Yoga Jen–
Hmm.. You and the dude next to me at “lunch box” yoga today– also seriously emitting Ben Gay fumes…Yoga without moving? For me that would be called Zen Meditation. If by ‘yoga’ you are looking for the ultimate “yujji’ or union with God, then meditation will get you here with nothing more strenuous than sitting still and breathing. If you are curious and want to join me — I practice on Thursdays 6:00 – 7:45 on 33rd St. 2nd & 1st. Over the summer I did a one week silent (I didn’t think I could shut up that long either!) Zen retreat and was so blissed out– swimming in an ocean of bliss- I didn’t know what to do with myself!! Miss your grats (hint, hint) Nature abhors a vacuum, so you current ‘yoga-free zone’ will be filled up before you know it. Feel better and e-mail if you want to join me for Zen, and morph into No Yoga Zen Jen!
PS There is also my favorite asana– Savasana!

A brown bag coconut water drinker! That is too funny.

Although I’m sorry you hurt your back and have to take a yoga break, this post really resonates. I know that when I don’t practice enough my anxiety shoots up, and I haven’t quite found the alternative. Regular meditation and walking help, though!

loved the brown bag coconut water drink part as well!! lol…
really enjoyed your writing.

it’s funny, I know I need yoga everyday.. I am like you, full of anxiety that can easily get the best of me… but, as you said its a serious time commitment, and add that to a full day of work and I have already made a million excuses not to go..

so since i dont go to yoga as much as id like, what ive been doing is just trying to be present at any given moment.. every second is a chance for me to let go… ahhhh! I realize i really dont need to do anything. such a relief!

Have you heard of Byron Katie? just discovered her yesterday, her philosophy is simple and amazing. I think you’d like..

anyway, feel better! and when you are well i’d love to take part in your addiction with you!

@Deb – For some reason, I love the smell of Ben Gay! When I was at the drug store I saw an option for “Vanishing Scent” Ben Gay and I thought, “Why would anyone ever want to get that? The scent is the best part!” 🙂 Thanks for your meditation recommendation. Swimming in an ocean of bliss sounds sooo divine! And I love Savasana, too!

@Yolk E – Taking walks really soothes me, too. Good to cultivate other practices so I don’t become totally reliant on yoga because can’t always get to yoga class.

@Victoria – So great (and often challenging, but rewarding) to practice yoga breath by breath and moment by moment off the mat and in daily life! Thanks for the recommendation! I have heard of Byron Katie but haven’t read her stuff. And I look forward to partaking in yoga addiction with you soon!

And @Yolk E & @Victoria – See you on the park bench with the brown bag of coconut water 🙂

[…] there was my pain the neck, which felt better only to then feel worse, plus a hamstring thing thrown into the tweaked-out […]

[…] had injuries before where I couldn’t do yoga. There was my back pain, my tweaked out arms and neck, and my broken toe. But none of these things seemed that serious, and […]

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