Sunday, June 17, 2007

the gift of broken ankle

It's been a long time since I've last written and many things have happened, including papers being published, travels to various places and so on. Probably the most significant event was that, as the title says, I managed to break my ankle in ballet class, about three months ago. Interestingly enough, this was not only a bad event, but also a tremendous lesson. Something as invasive as breaking your ankle requires you to complete rethink your life, because all the things you used to take for granted, climbing stairs, cooking, carrying a cup of tea, and so on, are suddenly difficult or impossible. Moreover, you have to remove the words hurry and haste from your dictionary. Yet, a broken ankle can also be a gift. I realised how lucky I was to not only have dancing but lots of other nourishing activities that I could do, no matter what: my science and my spiritual practice. During my time in the hospital I was especially grateful to have both a stack of papers to read to distract me and my spiritual practice to calm my mind and feel supported by the buddhas and bodhisattvas (visualising them can be a tremendous source of refuge and potentially also help recovery--see the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn). The people around me were amazing and helped me with everything, from grocery shopping to doing my laundry. It is wonderful to see how a handicap can bring the best out of people. Even complete strangers would sometimes come up to me to help me by opening a door, or asking what had happened to me.

Now, about 3 months later, I am still recovering and trying to get back into ballet. There were two tools that I found incredibly helpful: during the whole time of my injury, especially during the no-weightbearing portion of it (first six weeks), I practiced floor barre, ballet exercises that are performed lying down on the floor, or sitting down. They help tremendously in maintaining and strengthening your turnout and flexibility in general. They also help to acquire a good posture in ballet, with the back very straight. Later in my recovery period, i.e., now, I am practicing the New York City Ballet workout, which consists of floor exercises to strengthen abdominals and upper body, floor barre, as well as elementary ballet exercises like tendus, plies and simple jumps. Because these exercises are very simple, they are a good transition into actual ballet class. Now let's hope that I will be back on pointe soon!