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Toenails: Astanga Yoga’s Silent Killer

March 15, 2011

Hair, finger nails and toenails are the only things on our bodies that continue to grow posthumously…so, cut me some slack when I say that sometimes it is too late by the time I notice that the toenails are due for a hack back.  By the time I notice, I’ve already started to tear myself to little bits during my Mysore Astanga practice.

It took me a little while to realize that toenails of any length beyond the flesh of the nail bed was a distinct health risk because my Astanga practice is quite the work in progress. When I first started the whole affair was a bit of a mess…I had very few poses, and the practice of those precious few was punctuated by (loving?) barking of instructions when I would mess up the sequence or space out and forget what the following pose was supposed to be.  In the Mysore tradition, your teacher gives you poses as you are ready for them, and refines whatever damage you’ve done to the ones you’ve already received.

One day a few months ago, I realized I had gained the strength required of me to start jumping through from downward dog. This is tough because jelly-abs really don’t do the trick. So, naturally, I was thrilled with myself and concluded that not only was I awesome, but also jacked. This is where I started to realize the toenail terror. Jumping through wasn’t terribly smooth at first (and I’m not necessarily implying that it  is by any means a smooth operation now…) and on my way through my arms, I would often catch my toes on my forearms. Result: pain, brush burns, bruises and the occasional trickle of blood.

I looked abused, and the looks of concern on the faces of those asking about my injuries instantly melted into confusion (disgust?) when I revealed the source of my damage was my very own toenails.

While I would like to say that the proficiency level of my jump throughs improved and left my arms to heal, it is sadly only a partial truth. On a good, strong day, my jump throughs go well enough to preserve my arms and hands but I’ve recently also been shown how to correctly do jump backs. Let me just tell you, it has given me tons more toenail contact time. Thank god, because I thought I might really miss bleeding on my mat at 6:30 am every morning.

You’re obviously reading this and thinking, “why the hell doesn’t she just get some toenail clippers? Gross.” This is a totally understandable sentiment, but honestly…I do clip them regularly. Its just that the only way to stop the violence is to really cut them to the quick. Like cutting them to a degree that makes fashionable pedicurists very very uncomfortable.  Seriously, last time I clipped my toenails they were raw and sore for days – but you know what wasn’t? Yep, my forearms.

This week I sliced my hand open with my 4th toenail. That’s a first. Oh, the humanity!

The only reasonable solution is to become exceedingly awesome at yoga.  Either that, or I might invent some small toe-capping device to protect myself from future harm…I’ll save the discussion of the trials and tribulations of finger nails for another day.

[Image via: Dharma Chameleon]

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