My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Beth Lapides   

Don’t Think of it as Pain

Don’t think of it as pain,” my first yoga teacher used to say. “Think of it as sensation.”

Yes, painful sensation.

But I did start to think of it as sensation. And it helped. So I shifted my attitude off the mat too. For instance, I didn’t think of hunger as hunger, just a hungry sensation.

Two years of daily classes later, I was in upavista konasana (seated, wide-legged forward fold) when a different teacher gave me an overly enthusiastic adjustment. There was a ripping sound. “Was that your pants?” he asked, adding insult to injury.

No, that was me.


My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat
My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat
At first I thought this painful sensation might be a good thing. Maybe something was opening up. So much had already opened through yoga, and I hadn’t always been aware that it was un-opened to begin with. Then I noticed I was drooling from the pain of what I now know was a torn hamstring.

I tried to heal it with heat then ice, ice then heat, and finally, heat over ice, which is to say, vodka on the rocks.

I accepted a complimentary private session from the apologetic teacher. But it didn’t help mend the injury, or my anger. I tried electrical impulse therapy, various massage therapies and finally acupuncture.

“You can’t take the pain,” says Mimi Yu, the tough-love acupuncturist as I lie bare-assed and crying on the crinkly white paper. She has needles in her own neck, in the Frankenstein spots. I guess to prove that she can take it. She was right about me but she was wrong too. Because yes, I was crying but there I was, taking it.

“Jewish girls so spoiled,” she says as she twiddles the needles. “You better never have baby. You can’t take the pain.”

But I kept coming back, because on the first visit Mimi Yu had told me “eight visit; no more pain.” It became my mantra: Eight visit; no more pain. No more pain. Such a seductive thought. Not realistic though. I once saw the Dalai Lama point to his body and tell Larry King, “You have this, you have pain.”

One day Mimi’s acupuncturist-in-training son wanders in to twiddle my needles. He offers to try a technique he’d just learned: heating the needles. We could do it this very Saturday. Hot needles? Wow that sounds great, but I think I’m booked on Saturday. Yes all day. Doing what? Oh, not having hot needles stuck in my ass. Apparently, we all have our limits as to how much pain we are willing to go through to have no more pain.

After ‘eight visit’ the pain had receded enough so that I could function again. But it was far from gone. I was always aware of it. Like a broken heart. In fact a major yoga injury is like a broken heart. It seems impossible that the thing that felt so good is now making you feel so bad. It seems impossible that the very thing that was fixing your whole life is now ruining it.

My injury was putting the ow into flow but I kept practicing anyway. I had to. Yoga had become my coping mechanism. And I was in the middle of a major life/career transition. I’ve heard people say that most yoga injuries happen during transitions between poses. But the timing of my injury, right as I was in contract negotiations, makes me wonder if most yoga injuries don’t actually happen during transitions between phases of our lives.

Maybe hugging is the answer to everything. After all, all hugging is yoga, a union with what you hold dear to your heart and a falling away of everything else.

When my new phase finally started up it was almost as unsettled as the transition had been. I was working seventy-hour weeks hosting two daily radio/internet shows. It was a new job, at a new company, in a new medium. And in order to halve my commute I moved to a new neighborhood. But I kept practicing. I collected schedules from every yoga studio near work and would duck out any afternoon I could for a distracted, exhausted, injury impaired practice.

And then I was fired from the sinking ship. Ouch. I tried not to think of it as pain but as a painful sensation – to my ego and bank account. “I have time to focus on my practice again,” I told myself. And instead of crying over spilt soy milk I began to search for a new yoga home. One with a teacher who would help me practice around the injury. I had by now, given up hope of ever healing it. And then I found Anthony at City Yoga in West Hollywood.

“Hug your muscle to the bone,” he instructed. And after a few months of struggling to figure out how to hug my muscle to the bone and then and a few more months of actually hugging my muscle to the bone, my yoga injury was miraculously healed with yoga.

Maybe hugging is the answer to everything. Hugging trees, hugging each other. Hugging the curves of this winding road into the future.

I recently ran across a relationship advice book that prescribed six hugs per day. Greg and I started joking that we weren’t meeting our quota. So we started taking hug breaks and now there are days when what started as a goof turns a four o’clock funk into four o’clock fun. After all, all hugging is yoga, a union with what you hold dear to your heart and a falling away of everything else.

Then one day, mid-hug, I noticed how active hugging is. And suddenly it was so obvious. I’d been injured because I was practicing passively, without active engagement of the muscles. The adjustment wasn’t over enthusiastic, my practice was under enthusiastic.
And when I owned my part in the injury, my anger disappeared. I really had healed my yoga injury with yoga. Except I don’t think of it as an injury anymore. I think of it as a teacher. A very painful teacher.

Beth Lapides is a comedian, writer and teacher. Her new show is “100% Happy 88% of the Time,” a more convenient truth about our times, blending funny personal stories with eye-popping edge science and adventures on the spiritual edge. Don’t miss her next performance on Saturday, October 18, at M-Bar, 1253 N. Vine, Los Angeles, CA 90038. (323) 993 - 3305 or visit:

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