Primary Friday: Painful Practice and Pitta Problems

It has been a wild couple of weeks with high degrees of undetected stress, but now I feel as though I might be on the other side of something and my body is timidly unclenching as the experience soaks in.  Yesterday's Primary ("yesterday" being Friday, since I am writing this entry on Saturday.  Normally, I'd backdate the post, but, for reasons I won't go into, I will not do that this time.) was the most painful practice that I have ever endured.

Following periods of extreme stress, I tend to experience acute pain deep in my hips and at the hamstring attachments that make forward bending practically unbearable.  The strange thing is that this pain isn't the result of tension as it might first appear to be, at least not in the sense of shortness of the muscle.  Once sufficiently warm, the depth of the postures is relatively unaffected.  It is the nature of the sensation that is completely changed.  It cuts sharp and deep, tugging at my solar plexus and jabbing at my diaphragm like an obnoxious bully on the schoolbus, loathsome and relentless.

Even more strangely, the most painful postures in practice both Friday and today were the Sarvangasana series.  Shoulderstanding.  The sensation shooting through my hips and up my body overwhelmed me with dueling impulses to either vomit or cry.  Friday, I made it through Halasana, but bailed at the very thought of Karnapidasana.  Today, even Halasana was too much to attempt.  Couldn't do it.  No way.

This being Saturday, you must be thinking to yourself, "What fool would practice on Saturday?  Saturday is rest day!"

I did an abbreviated practice this morning because I took four days off this week.  In a row.  For my holiday.  I never take four days, but I am in the process of reshaping my practice, reshaping my life, in a way that supports my well-being rather than stressing it.  I will spare you the details of my personal health concerns -- typical pitta problems -- but four days of rest per month for my holiday (making space for the process) is part of the plan.

At first, I thought all of that rest might be the cause of the discomfort in my hips and hammies, but I have a feeling it's this:  as part of this larger lifestyle reformation, I quit drinking coffee.

I used the extra rest days to get through the withdrawal period. After ten years of daily coffee consumption -- black, hot, and straight from the pot -- it's been almost a week without a drop of java and I feel like a different person.  Time passes more slowly.  My body moves more freely and gracefully through space.  I am calmer, cooler, more even-tempered.  And my skin looks amazing.  Just two days into the coffee prohibition, I kept catching myself in the mirror and wondering when or why I had put on makeup, only to remember that I was in fact not wearing any makeup.  It's a nice perk, and there are more.  Many more.

I am finally getting serious about damping down this flame that's been burning too hot for too long.  Learning more about the ayurvedic approach, more about my dosha and how to find balance.  Not surprisingly, my own education calls me to give up many of the foods and practices I have come to love.  In this adventure, I am continually shaping and reshaping.  Moving and breathing.  Practicing zazen.  Drinking spearmint tea.

The discomfort I am feeling is a positive sign.  Deep release is coming.


  1. wow! please continue to post about your psychical/emotional experiences in giving up coffee. I am arriving at the same place you have, I think, in noticing that my absolute addition to coffee might just be the cause of many of my ailments. However, I haven't dared make the break with it for fear of what it might unleash...

    1. Hi Anon,

      I will write more about the process. Giving it up has been such an enlightening experience.

  2. I am amazed with your honesty and willingness to really look at yourself. I was just watching a TED talk today by Brene Brown about vulnerability and here is a shining example. I find it hard to give voice to my issues in private, and can't even imagine doing it on a blog. That is vulnerability and I am inspired by you.

    1. Hi Dottie,

      Thank you. Learning to be vulnerable is one of my intentions for 2012. In the spirit of that intention, I try to share as honestly and openly as I can without dumping negativity into the world. I only hope that some of my experiences may inspire or save others the trouble of my own trial and error.

      I've said this before, but the writing has really evolved as a counterpart to the practice -- or rather, as an element of the practice itself. Usually, I just sit down to a blank screen, put my fingers on the keys, and see what comes out. Raw emotion and intuition are refined into realized thought on the page. This is a powerful tool for self-discovery and I am so grateful to my readers for their compassion and support.

  3. I have been a 'silent' reader until this moment and have to say that, after coming across your blog about a month ago, I really enjoy your posts! I guess this one stuck out to me the most because it seems the most personal one that has yet to land in my inbox and strike a chord within my own life (I do not practice astanga, but rather Prana Flow). I too am very Pitta, and it's been a REAL challenge (wish I could bold and italicize those two words to underscore how much I get where you are) to downshift my life. My teacher Shiva Rea talks a lot about 'tending to one's own inner fire' and it's been a real struggle on all planes. It's led me to make some substantial dietary shifts and even give notice at my day job to leave at the end of April b/c I can no longer bare the stress piled on by doing things that run counter to my own personal journey in this life. Sending you much love... on your journey & for your fierce courage to make these changes.

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for making yourself known. ;-)

      I am really glad this post resonated with you. Good for you for taking steps to consciously align your life. It's not easy. Best of luck.

  4. Oh Meghan, I am so interested in all of this! I too have been trying to cut back on my caffeine, strong pitta tendencies too although I know very little about Ayurveda. Perhaps your post will give me the chutzpah to give up coffee altogether this week.
    Four days for the holiday? Not sure I can bear it!
    Ginger tea is good too although maybe a little heating.

    Thank you for this today!

    1. Haha, yeah. The four days off was really hard. Actually, of the four days I "didn't practice," I actually did practice twice. I just didn't do Ashtanga. Ha! But that just makes this pain all the more bizarre.