Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Mindfulness and a Twisted Ankle

Since the start of the year, I've been writing about mindfulness - the practice of paying attention and being present. This past weekend, I had the interesting experience of having a moment of mind-LESS-ness turn into an opportunity to practice constant mindfulness.

I twisted my ankle while I was at a weekend intensive yoga workshop with my teacher in Dallas, Texas. I didn't twist it DURING a workshop session; I twisted it while walking through the parking lot to my car in between sessions.

I'd never been to Dallas before. I was traveling alone, had a rental car and a hotel room a few miles from the yoga studio. Dallas is a big city and going from the airport to my hotel and my hotel to the yoga studio required navigating busy city expressways and trusting my WAYZ app (which I highly recommend) to get me where I wanted to go. I'd attended a yoga class and the first workshop session with my teacher when it happened  - in other words, it happened on the first day of the workshop.

Like all accidents, it happened Just. Like. That. I stepped on a small stone, my ankle turned and I felt myself go down. I didn't hurt myself hitting the ground, but I knew right away that my ankle was injured.

The good news is that I could walk on it - or limp, without pain. It wasn't broken, just injured. It swelled up and there was bruising below the ankle on the outer heel. But it didn't hurt to put weight on it - only when I turned certain ways.

Part of me wanted to cry and the other part thought, Well, this is just what happened. You can let it ruin the weekend, or you can use it to learn something different from what you expected. I decided to do the latter, and it turned out to be one of the best workshop experiences of my life. With guidance from my teacher, Tias Little, I was able to participate fully in the workshop sessions and much of what he taught helped the ankle feel better. 

I wasn't doing anything wrong when I fell, just walking out to my car during the break. But, I was probably hurrying when I didn't need to and I certainly didn't see the stone that took me down, so I wasn't "paying attention." In a moment of inattention - of mindlessness - I hurt myself.

From that point on, I had to practice CONSTANT mindfulness: I had to move slooooowly, staying conscious of every step and every movement. Throughout the workshop, I had to be constantly mindful of how I positioned my foot. I had to take the time to figure out how to transition down to the floor or up to standing. I had to determine if I needed to take a different position in a pose and if so, what it should be. Tias and his wonderful assistants offered suggestions to help me get the most out of it and stay safe.

This became, oddly enough, a rather fun and interesting challenge! I may have gotten more out of the workshop as a result of having to be so constantly present with and thoughtful about my movements. I felt a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from figuring things out and participating, rather than relegating myself to wounded-bird status; sitting in a corner, pouting and feeling sorry for myself.

After the workshop, I had to navigate transfers at the airport and getting through security and to my gate. I got there early,  walked slowly and waited for crowds to dissipate before moving forward. People move fast in airports and think nothing of brushing by and bumping into you!

I got home safely and my foot feels better daily, though it looks like a small monster's foot. I still have to think about my movements and remain fully present with what I'm doing - every minute! 

I find it extremely interesting that I've been exploring mindfulness so much lately and suddenly was given the opportunity to put it into action in a BIG way - as the result of NOT putting it into action! I think we call that irony. 

Here are a couple of the stretches that we did in the workshop that really helped my foot and ankle feel better. I was lucky though, that it wasn'tsprained badly r broken - then it would have been too painful and not advisable to do anything but rest.

Supta Padanghustasana I

Supta Padanghustasana I Variation

Supta Padanghustasana II with Handhold Variation

Supta Padanghustasana III with Handhold Variation


  1. Hi Melissa,
    When I read your post I could identify with your situation. Eighteen months ago, I was alone in London on business, just about to go into a very important luncheon with 800 other diners when I stood on an uneven part of the floor where tiles met carpet and twisted my ankle good and proper!
    I had ankle boots on and my ankle swelled so much I couldn't of got the boot off if I'd wanted to...
    It was a Friday, there wasn't a black cab to be had in the late afternoon when I'd finished and I had to limp through London and use the underground to get to St Pancras railway station to travel home. As you say, you have to be very mindful and keep telling yourself you can do it, you can get home.
    Hours later I made it through my front door and all but collapsed as the pain was excruciating.
    I'm glad you were able to enjoy your workshop.

  2. Oh my gosh, your story is much worse than mine! I could cry for thinking of you having to limp home like that! Also, the boots!! I had brought boots and considered whether to wear them on the plane but I realized it is incredibly painful to try to get your feet into a boot with a sprained ankle - or out of the boot! Well - these things make for good stories - when they are in the good and distant past!


Talk to me!