As my regular yoga students will already know, I have cancelled all of my classes for the next few weeks as a result of breaking my clavicle in a competitive cycling accident.
Having recently convened a 'yoga for cyclists' course to supplement the Cowley Road Condors' Winter training regime, I'm no stranger to combining my newly found love of two wheels with my long term yoga practice.
A broken collarbone is a common injury for cyclists, so now that I suddenly find myself with a lot more time than usual, I thought it would be a good idea to document how I am dealing with my injury, both on and off the yoga mat, and on and off the bike.
N.B. If you are coming to this post because you have similarly broken your collarbone, please note that this is not intended as a guide for 'how to fix yourself' - what is good for me in these circumstances, may not be good for you. Having never had this type of injury before, this is also an experiment; what I think will be helpful in week 1, may still prove to be unhelpful in week 3. You'll have to stick with me to find out what works (and what doesn't!).
How it happened
After a brief and muddy flirtation with Cyclocross in 2015, I decided 2016 would be the year I upped my game in terms of competitive road cycling. With my sights set on making it into the Condor ladies team at the Silverstone 9-up time trial (TT) in June, I signed up to take part in my first individual 10 mile TT.
Despite wasting a few seconds at the start line...
Me: "I've never done this before!"
Pusher: [the person that holds you up on your bike so you can clip into your pedals] "That's ok, just step either side."
Timer: "10... "
Me: "Now what do I do?"
Timer: "5... "
Pusher: "Well, this is the bit where you sit on your bike."
Timer: "1... "
Me: "Oh right, yeah, shit, I'm not ready for this."
Timer: "Minus 3..."
Me: "Ahhh I can't get my cleat in!"
Timer: "Minus 10..."
Pusher: [Pushing me off] "Go!"
...over halfway through, I thought I was faring pretty well (especially considering the bare minimum amount of training I had completed in the run up, evident from the bit of dust I wiped off my down tube as I pinned my number on).
Unfortunately, a freak accident put paid to my Anna van der Breggen ambitions. The wheel of the rider overtaking me (travelling at 28mph) slipped on a mossy patch of the track and skidded into me (travelling at 22mph). Needless to say I came off, and knocked myself out in the process. When I regained consciousness, the only thing I could focus on was the excruciating pain in my right shoulder, and the questions (which my partner, Arran, tells me I repeated over and over): 'Was it my fault?', 'I was doing really well wasn't I?', 'Is my bike OK?' and 'Where is my Garmin?' Good to know that in the moments that mattered, I got my priorities right.
Countless minutes of Arran shouting at me to stay awake; numerous attempts at breathing exercises lying on the tarmac; copious gulps of my new favourite thing in life (gas and air) and 5 hours in A&E later, I was told that I had broken my clavicle in two places.* Up to this point, I had been sure the doctor would just pop that bit of bone sticking out, back in, and I would be teaching my Ashtanga class, as usual, the next day.
"That's really going to mess up your Chakrasana!"
News of my fracture was not taken with good grace, acceptance and non-attachment. It immediately made me think of all the things I would now be unable to do. My yoga teacher, Richard Adamo, quite rightly pointed out that my dearest, darling Chakrasana (wheel) would suffer.
Now I know why we are all keen on taking fancy schmancy pictures of ourselves. It's not just a self-marketing ploy, a 'Like me! Like me! Look what I can do! Please like me!' strategy - it's so we can capture ourselves for posterity: "Look! See! I was good at that once!" Preserving a 'heyday' is neither the point nor the practice of yoga. Getting myself into Chakrasana (either perfectly or, imperfectly) will not make my morning coffee, pay my rent or help me make choices more wisely.
As a teacher, it is important for me to resist hiding the difficulties involved in committing to a yoga practice; there are plenty of struggles (both physical and mental). You don't get good at yoga because you can acheive something - in fact, you can't get 'good' at yoga, full stop - but what you can do is commit to having a sense of integrity in your yoga practice, even if you lose that sense of integrity to your ego (aka Instagram) sometimes. So, just in case you're still wondering, what I'm doing in that picture above might be called 'Chakrasana' but that's not me practising yoga, that's just me showing off.
Week 0: the beginning
Week 0 of my broken collarbone means wearing a sling to stabilise the shoulder girdle; resting; feeling sorry for myself as I miss my yoga classes, and being able to do the things I'm usually lucky enough to take for granted (like putting my hair up, and not having to press the loo roll with my forehead so I can rip a piece off). As the paramedics refused to let me take the gas and air home, week 0 also means eating Percy Pigs. LOTS of Percy Pigs.
Temporary infirmity aside, I can see the shape of Week 1 already. I'll still be resting (and I'll probably still be feeling sorry for myself) but I'll also be practising lots of supine yoga postures (not least because I have a bout of post-head injury, positional vertigo to contend with). Keen to avoid any further instability, I'll be focusing on ways to keep up the strength in my legs, lower back and abdominal muscles as I continue to wait for my clavicle to heal. Only then will I begin the slow process of rehabilitation; Chakrasana can wait.
I'll be posting a new blog here next week. If I can get my hands on a tripod, there may even be a video...
*I owe a lot in gratitude to my club, the Cowley Road Condors, Bicester Millennium Cycling Club and representative Zappi's members, who were all fantastic at the time of my accident and afterwards. You really couldn't wish to be around a better bunch of people. Chapeau!