The last time you banged your knee on the corner of a coffee table, did it hurt? When you accidentally cut yourself chopping veggies, did it bleed? And how about those pesky little paper cuts? Those things hurt like heck!
The above and more are all reminders of an undeniable and universal truth: Our human bodies are fragile. Made of mere flesh and bone, our bodies negotiate our instincts to survive against foes mighty and small. The odds are stacked against us: We can be destroyed as easily through being hit by a train as we can by acquiring a infectious microscopic virus.
And that, after all, is the ultimate reason we practice yoga: to connect to our true essence. Because unlike the human body, our essence is eternal, infinitely permanent.
This all brings us to the story of a recent hip injury belonging to a popular and charismatic Ashtangi, Kino MacGregor. The cyber yoga universe lit up recently with news that the Miami-based yogini, famous throughout social media for her rigorous practice and skimpy shorts (alas, another source of controversy for her), had injured her hip.
Reportedly, the injury didn’t happen during one of the many asanas in which MacGregor defies gravity while hooking her feet behind her head. Nor did it happen while inverting or coiling herself around her limbs. It happened, she said, while giving an adjustment to a student.
No matter, news of the injured hip unleashed the wrath of yoga-pant-clad “Mean Girls” everywhere. It’s as if we traveled back to high school: You could hear locker doors slamming as sny comments excoriating the golden maned MacGregor lit up computer screens and blog sites across the globe.
Some of the comments included: “She doesn’t practice yoga, she practices gymnastics.” Still others: “She had it coming … always over-reaching … putting herself out for exhibition … skewing the ancient lineage of yoga.”
We’ll leave it for others to debate the backlash against MacGregor’s yoga brand, and focus instead on the driving premise of this essay: Regardless of our yoga practice (or lack of), our bodies will feel pain and sooner or later become injured. Quite simply, it’s one thing the human body is built to do. We’re not saying it’s pretty or ideal, but sooner or later, the body falls apart. Yet here we are, aghast that another mere mortal has injured their fragile vessel.
Regardless of her yogic Instagram fame, MacGregor is not obligated to share with the yoga public the cause of her injury. We may never know if she was too aggressive or whether she had a congenital condition. Maybe she pulled something running after the dog! It’s none of our business.
What we can seize from this latest chapter in the saga of yoga controversies, however, is another truism that yoga offers us: Just as our bodies are capable of injury, our bodies also heal.
As swiftly as they are harmed, our bodies can heal, through time, attention—and of course, through yoga. Healing through yoga will look different at different times. Some days, there will be meditation and savasana. Other days, we will study ancient philosophy seeking insight and spiritual understanding. There will be times where we embrace asana to understand the pain or strain, and we’ll listen with mindfulness and breath as we adjust, recalibrate and move our bodies carefully and cautiously.
We invest a lot in our yoga poster men and women. We hold them to a high—even mythical—standard, as if they should be able to rise, bend and flow like a dab of silly putty or fresh malleable clay. What MacGregor, in her infinitely graceful way reminds us, is that her body, like our own, is fragile and oh-so human, capable of wearing down and breaking down. And that she—just as we are—is capable of healing.