My background as a dancer brought me a lot of skills… but many injuries at the same time. When i really started my yoga practice a couple of years ago, i realized how much my body was broken, damaged and desperately needed some healing.
At the start of my asana practice arm balancing was absolutely impossible for me, but with my stubborn mind and my need to be the ‘perfect yogi’, i wanted to perform Bakasana (Crow Pose) anyway. I didn’t listen to my right shoulder, elbow, and wrist, which were actually very weak. I was suffering from a bad posture since many years due to a very old injury in my right collar bone, many years ago. As a result: I injured myself, a nerve in my arm got blocked and at some point, i didn’t even have any sensation in my right hand any more (scary!)… The pain was constant, night & day, lying in my bed trying to sleep. Even Savasana was unbearable. I knew it. I had to stop practicing asanas, which was a kind of drama for a person like me!
But, soon enough I took it as a gift as I understood that i still could practice Yoga. And I must say I am happy this happened to me, as that experience made me realize what the actual practice of yoga encompasses, and what the right way to approach doing asanas is (:dropping the Ego!). It made me grow through my understanding of life and my yoga practice 🙂
The 8 limbs of yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras tells us that asana, the physical postures, are only one aspect of the yogic path, which includes Yamas & Niyamas (restraints and observances ), Pranayama (control of the breath ), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration ), Dhyana (meditation), all ultimately leading to Samadhi (enlightenment). For many of us beginning our yoga journey, the physical practice is a door for self-discovery. But when the body is physically compromised, how can we keep moving?, stay strong and flexible?, and maintain our connection with the practice of Asana? How can we keep growing as students, as yogis ?? The answer is accepting, slowing down, modifying… and embracing the other limbs of yoga has been the key to my recovery and my growth. Here a few tips and tricks for you, injured yogi, to keep going.
Practice gentle forms of yoga:
Yin, Restorative & Therapeutic Yoga are more soothing yoga styles that can help in your injury healing journey:
* Yin Yoga involves laying passively in deep streches allowing the fascia, connective tissue surrounding the muscles, to release. Accessing the fascia is necessary to maintain and deepen your range of motions. Yin may be helpful to prevent tightness of muscles situated near the injury.
* Restorative Yoga uses props to support the body ,encouraging the nervous system to slow so that the body can truly relax and open. This form of yoga is for everyone, finding time to breath deeply and relax into the shape of your body is essential in combating any stress or worry that may be lasting in you.
* Therapeutic Yoga is a method of modifying traditional yoga poses in a way that supports a particular therapeutic focus.
Practice of Self-massage
When we suffer from a physical injury, there are some chances that we accumulate some muscular imbalances, tightness and maybe even some scar tissue. Myofascial Release involves applying pressure to knotted muscles and trigger points within and around the muscles to release soft tissue constriction. When healthy muscles overcompensate for weak or injured muscles, they become tense, overworked and so, painful.
You can start with simple self-massage tools like a tennis ball, and work through tightness on your own. This ultimately feeds a deeper connection with the body and understanding what it needs.
Practice of Pranayama
As always, Nadi Shodhana, the alternate nostril breathing, is a simple but effective technique that brings immediate balance to the mind. We can never point out enough the importance of the breath. When we are feeling unwell, the breath is what we could rely on. It is the only one of the 8 limbs that we practice each day, all day long. So access to the breath control for healing and clarity is always available.
Deepen your Meditation practice
The original purpose of Asana is to prepare the body for meditation. Asana is a tool to allow a yogi to quiet the mind and access the stillness within. If you feel intimidated by the idea of “doing nothing ” for 15 or 20 minutes, or if, like me, you have tried meditation just at the end of a Yoga class and never really established a consistent practice, taking the time to do so now will help your process and deepen the emotional side of your healing. Sitting with your pain, vulnerable and open to the changes happening in your body is a powerful way of coping with injury, pain and stress.
Time to read
As you are not able to jump on your mat, this might be the perfect time to study the Sutras, read the Bhagavad Gita , …or even spend time watching inspirational videos online 😉
Take the practice “OFF THE MAT”
We often heard about living yoga in our daily life… Yes, it is kind of easy to feel serene and peaceful at the end of a vigorous Vinyasa session, it is another thing to keep calm and mindful in the traffic or waiting in a line… or not panicking when a problem shows up. Mindfulness is a constant effort, and we are the same persons on & off the mat . You are the same guy chanting ‘OM’, and going to work every day, interacting with people and dealing with this world. We could just notice, pay attention and appreciate simple things as birds flying, dogs playing on the beach, leaves falling on the grass, truly savoring the bites of our meals, the perfume of a Chai…
Let the challenge of your pain and the frustration transform into something wise, soft and beautiful. Take it as a chance to understand, to grow, to realize something important, to explore your other realms.
Then, as that experience inevitably changes you, you may find that the physical part is just a bonus to the Yoga that is within.