Turning a doorknob hurt. That’s how debilitated my right arm was. So I did my yoga without it. Throughout, I thought of the musician’s tool, Music Minus One, which is a recording of a piece of music that is missing one instrument. It gives the practicing musician perfect accompaniment with which to practice.
My right arm is a mess inside, with fasciitis on the top half and tendonosis below the elbow. Why agony again? Chores? Bad luck? Who knows? A Bikram instructor might suggest that my intense practice is rebuilding me unto the last damaged cell. “Old injuries come up,” the teachers say. The more you practice, the more you fix.
As I practiced, every pose posed a problem. I was unable to raise or straighten my arm above my shoulder without a fierce burning. I could not grab my foot, nor send force through my arm. The pain was nauseating, as were the clicks of a swollen ligament in my upper arm. But as I flailed along, necessity was the mother of discovery.
In standing head-to-knee pose, without holding my foot to keep my extended leg parallel to the floor and my heel pressed forward, the demand on the quad was astonishing. In balancing stick, without stretched-out arms to lengthen my torso, I butted my head forward toward the mirror and felt my vertebrae separate, an eerie sensation. In rabbit, without having rooted arms to roll forward against, I mobilized core strength to compact the curve of my spine, pulling in my bellybutton as never before, and pressing hips and shoulders toward one another, as if so they could kiss.
All of which is to say: I played my yoga without my arm and learned to appreciate other instruments. And I learned the score–well, a bit more anyway.