Returning to the Mat: A Lesson in Ahimsa

MEEP, MEEP, MEEP— My blurry eyes open and I fumble for my phone by my head…  is it 5:45 already?  I lay there contemplating if I really want to “do this”.  I could roll over and pretend this never happened, like it was a dream.  Go back to sleep and wake up at 9… even 10!  I sigh, resisting the temptation, knowing that I would regret that decision, before dragging my ass out of bed.  As I slowly make my way through the darkness towards the bathroom, I begrudgingly look at my husband nestled warmly under the covers— I could go curl up again, for just a minute or two.  I stop at the threshold to the bathroom, take one final look and close the door on temptation.

I flick on the light, GAH!  The hostile lighting makes me squint.  My leggings and tank top are already laid out on the floor.  I’m still in a fog, but I smile when the heat kicks on.  I hurry up and grab my leggings and tent them over the vent, so they balloon up with warm air— now I’ll have toasty leggings to put on! I start getting ready and when the heat shuts off I quickly don my warm leggings, with a goofy grin on my face, as if I just got the last piece of chocolate cake or something. Once finished, I sneak out of the bedroom, let my shih tzu out (she’s a morning person) and head downstairs.

I’m short on time (sleep is more important), so I begin my morning ritual.  I quickly fix Meili’s (my shih tzu) hair, give her fresh water and then prepare to feed the starving hound.  If you didn’t know any better, you would think I feed her once a week instead of twice a day.  She goes bonkers for her “num nums”.  Anyway, now that she is hoovering up her food, I can go about my business.  I grab a granola bar, make some tea and begin to put everything I need into my bags.  Before I leave, my hubby comes downstairs and I give him a quick smooch before dashing out the door.

As I make the hour drive, I fall into a meditative state.  Driving on the weekend is nice because there is zero traffic.  It is hard to believe that is has been over two months since I have been at the shala; talk about pathetic.  I have been practicing bits and pieces of the sequence, but nothing in its entirety.  I’ve been doing more like half primary mostly, with bits of the second half thrown in as “project work”.  I’m beginning to worry that I won’t even remember the sequence.  Breathe Ashley, stop worrying so much about something that hasn’t even happened yet.  😀

When I arrive, I automatically feel at home.  Of course, I’ve had that feeling from the very beginning.  If you have ever had the luxury of finding a place to train that feels that way, then you know what I am talking about.  I had that when I did martial arts and I am lucky (and thankful) to have that again here.  I took my time and finally strolled into the Mysore room sometime between 7-7:30 to start my practice.

My practice was going alright.  Of course, I could tell I was out of practice, but I felt okay.  Elizabeth would come over periodically and give me feedback or assists.  She gave me one hell of a supta kurmasana assist that left me quite sore the next day.  It was quite yummy though and one that I actually needed.  I am unable to enter that deeply on my own, so I was very thankful for the assist.

At some point during my practice, a guy came in and placed his mat next to mine.  An odor of marijuana was emanating from him.  The scent of marijuana is a HUGE migraine trigger for me.  I dealt with it for a bit and finally, I went into fight of flight mode.  I began to look around for an escape— a way to flee.  The room was fairly full and I didn’t see a clear, empty spot.  The only place I saw that I could fit would have required two people to more in order to make room for me. So… I stayed, and fought.  I continued my practice and tried not to think about it.

Towards the end of my practice, I was feeling miserable.  I had a migraine.  I messed up the sequence of the last three poses because I found it hard to concentrate and I skipped headstand in closing because I knew it would just make my migraine worse.  Elizabeth, noticed I was in distress and came over to me.  She had me lay down with my feet up the wall, propped my head up and put an eye pillow over my eyes.  I hung out for a while and then decided that I should head home.  She asked if I was okay to drive or if I needed to go to her house and relax for a while.  She asked if I knew what caused my migraine, to which I felt uncomfortable responding since the guy was still right next to me.  She asked if it was asana based and I told her no.

As I sit here now, I have several things on my mind.  I am glad that I went, as it has been months and I needed to go.  Could I have handled the situation better— probably.  In yoga, we learn about ahimsa.  What I did to myself was absolutely self harm.  I should have been an advocate and either moved or left.  Or, I could have practiced the rest of the sequence in the other room (though it would have been cold).  The ultimate outcome of that migraine was completely my fault.  Sure, it is possible that even if I did any one of those things, that even that briefest encounter still could have caused a migraine, but I’m guessing the likelihood of that would have been significantly less.

I will take that as a lesson and I hope that I learn from this.


Other articles you might enjoy:
Chronic Pain: Lessons Learned
Dream, Dream, Dream

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6 thoughts on “Returning to the Mat: A Lesson in Ahimsa

  1. Rachel Leshaw says:

    there’s a woman at my studio that smells strongly of pinesol, but she says it’s some essential oil. i’ve flat out told her, “i’m moving my mat bc the smell is giving me a headache.” she just said “ok” and smiled, and continues to wear an insane amount of the oil no matter how many people have to move away from
    her. frustrating. but as long as i can escape it and stay in the room practicing, is fine. if the studio was smaller i would have to have a serious sit-down about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ashleycarteryoga says:

      There is a pine EO that is strong. Because of my chronic migraines, I am fairly sensitive to odors, but MJ is a major trigger for me. I left my last job because I couldn’t be around the smell (well that was ONE reason). With that said, most studios have in their rules “no perfumes, lotions, etc” because it can be a hinderance to students. My shala even asks students to shower before training, though that isn’t strictly enforced. I spoke to my teacher about it and she said if it happens again, she will happily move me. I feel much better about the situation. I’m usually a much better advocate for myself, but this time I was more concerned about hurting someones feelings or inconveniencing others. Wah wah… lesson learned. Sometimes it is okay to be selfish!

      Like

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