What my neck is telling me: a practical philosophy lesson.

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I have always had problem in the cervical area. Well, not “always” actually, just since I started to work; I had been lucky to find a job soon after my university degree, but I did not like it all. I simply had to, as I was leaving abroad and needed to financially sustain myself, independently from family. I have always known that such neck problems come from stress. A long series of osteopathy as well traditional Western medicine followed, each time allowing me to temporarily relieve the symptoms, till the next ‘neck attack’.

I have been recently training for the ashtanga yoga primary series and I admit that some of the asanas (especially the seated ones) are quite difficult for me. My hips joints are very tight, I have spent most of my whole training trying to open them up.

During one class I was trying to get into Upavistha Konasana and Supta konasana (seated angle pose and reclined angle pose). I was aware that my hips and my tendons at knee level were going to hurt, as it had been the case since week 2 of my training.

But I was eager to get there.

So, I forgot about having weak core muscles, I forgot about the patience that one should have before being actually able to reach the full pose. I forgot that I should let go of any ambition or impatience or greed and slowly move into the pose, allowing my body and my mind together to bring me there, with time.

I basically forgot all what I had been taught about aparigrapha, the abstension from greed, the freedom from attachment. My mind, the “big thief”, as my yoga master names it, had decided that it wanted the full pose right away.

I rushed into the reclined pose without engaging my muscles properly, out of will and impatience. My neck cracked. It was so painful that it took my breath away and my eyes filled with tears. Nobody at school told me anything, not my teacher, nor my yoga master.

I went home in great pain, took some pain killers and started to think: what have I done wrong? I felt I had received a slap; my ego had surely received one! The morning after it all became clear. I had done a silly mistake while I should have known better. What a lesson for me!

From that moment, I have become very attentive and alert to what my body says; I am not scared, I am simply more ‘aware’. I have had the chance to get to know myself a bit more. Maybe that ‘neck attack’ has been a gift, after all.