Francisco Kaiut tore his Achilles tendon not during yoga, but on a night out with friends.
About 3 weeks before my 48th birthday I tore my achilles tendon in the middle of a teacher training course here in the south part of my country. Unlike many Achilles tendon injuries, I was not playing a sport and I was not practicing yoga when it happened. During some early celebrations for my birthday with some friends I found myself in a heated fruit war with a good friend of mine. After dinner we were enjoying the evening in the backyard of my friend’s house, which is filled with beautiful fruit trees. I was on my way to choose a nice bottle of wine for us all to drink when out of the corner of my eye I saw a banana fly by. Smack! The banana exploded on the wall of the house behind me. Naturally my animal instincts kicked in and my first thought was, “Where the hell is a banana?” So, I moved quickly to find a banana to retaliate. The war began and the bananas started to fly. In the depth of the battle I started to run, as I was out of ammo. During the sprint I took a quick turn and SNAP, my big toe went to my shin and I tore the tendon connecting my heal to my calf. The pain was instant.
The accident itself caused me to reflect: Am I practicing correctly or have I committed mistakes in my practice? This was the first thought I had. Did I get hurt because it was a random accident or because I was making mistakes in my practice and this accident was a consequence of those mistakes?
So, there I was in the middle of a teacher training with a torn Achilles tendon. “What am I going to do now?” I wondered. I thought back to the lecture I had given the day before during the course—a talk about making a resource out of whatever happens to you. I decided to put that theory to the test. I knew the tear in my ankle was worthy of surgical assistance. Not because I am against medicine or against surgery but because I wanted to test my theory, I opted out of any type of medical assistance. I decided to lead with the heavy pain I was experiencing and allow that pain to become an asset. I chose to use the pain as a teacher and an inspiration rather than a source of frustration and complaint.
The morning after the accident I started my day the same way as always: Two espresso shots while reviewing my class plans for that day. The only difference was that I was preparing my classes seated in a wheelchair rather than on my mat or in a regular chair. During the planning of these classes I knew I would be teaching from the wheelchair the entire day, which is different than my normal classroom routine where I can see the classroom from all different angles. I had to plan the class knowing I would be seated in a wheelchair in the corner of the room with only one vantage point possible to see as much as I could. Step one, I had to plan to see the classroom without actually being able to see the entire classroom. I had to support each student from afar, and on top of all of that, I had to fully feel the pain in my ankle.
The moment I entered the classroom it was time to put my theory into action. As I began to teach I realized that with all the difficulties surrounding the situation, I needed to perform at my best. The result was that my students felt that I was able to connect with them on a deeper level and that I was able to deliver a better class because of the accident, not despite it. I was able to teach my students by putting into action the theory of my lecture from the day before. They all knew I was in an immense amount of pain, but because of that pain they all felt and saw that I was able to be a better teacher.
I decided to deal with the pain without any analgesic drugs, not because I am against medicine, but because I wanted to test my theory that correct tension would generate natural repair. I wasn’t denying the medical position and am still not denying it, rather I’m testing my point of view and its efficacy. It’s been four weeks since the accident and my recovery has been very good considering the complexity of the lesion. I’m already putting tension on the region to accelerate the therapeutic process. I still have pain and some circulatory impairment in the region but I believe that I’ll have 100% regeneration and be able to prove to myself my own point . This is very important to me. Throughout this entire process of teaching yoga classes with pain as my own teacher and asset, I discovered new forms of communication with my students that have shown me that the method isn’t hypothetical or just theory. The method is real and has practical applications. I was able to observe the variation of my mood and the tendency to get frustrated and not want to succumb to the pain. I kept my focus on the humor, positive qualities, and learning I could gain from the accident instead of focusing on the difficulty of the pain, the frustration, and the possible compromise of my practice. I focused on the right place. Since that accident my practice has actually improved and I’ve been able to refine it in a very meaningful way.
Often things happen in life that we cannot plan for, but that is exactly what the human being is designed to accommodate. In my point of view, the things we don’t and can’t plan for are what make this life so exciting and wonderful to live. So, at 48 years old, I’m happy to have a torn Achilles tendon because it has changed my perspective on pain and helped me develop my personal practice on an entirely new level. Kaiut Yoga is much more than learning to work with your pain or learning how to diminish it. Kaiut Yoga is about allowing the pain to take its path as your teacher, so you can take the unexpected event and use it in your favor.