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Injury Rehabilitation

1 October 2018

So, anyone who’s been in my class or seen me on social media the past 2 years has probably heard me whinge about my injury. Those closest to me I’ve probably done more than whinge to you, you know who you are and thank you I love you!

When I first started practicing yoga it made me feel invincible. Yoga was the best thing I’d ever done and my body felt amazing. Like a lot of yogis new to the journey, I was very much in the physical Asana & Pranayama and my job in social service was satisfying the Yama’s & Niyama’s. I hadn’t felt so good in years so I just wanted to share with everyone. I started to teach a few years later and back then I used to believe that yoga would fix everything and I would have gone as far to say that yoga would prevent everything….. It’s the cure for our disconnected world.

To become a yoga teacher I gave up a reasonably well paid steady job, drifted from my social circle and ended up selling my house in the process to follow my heart and spread the joy and magic of yoga. I worked for years on my practice and body trying achieve the most difficult and ‘glamorous’ poses and felt pretty proud of myself. This was my Dharana (my focus as I’m not materialistic and felt right to become better at being in my body than accruing money or objects). Naturally like most yogis a non physical side of practice opened up to me; Dhyana or the meditation practice and the shamanic path of remembering my relationship with nature and feeling that deeper connection. Life is pretty blissful sometimes and I went about sharing this bliss of an experience whenever I had the opportunity. I made time for injuries in my teaching experience but never really gave them any value other than learning the modifications I needed to hand out incase of an injured student.

So like all cycles my bliss bubble burst a bit, well a lot. Fast forward 7 years and then the accrued pressure on my relatively straight lumbar from all those years of heavy squats, deep backbends mixed with a lot of push push push harder harder harder manifested itself in 2 slipped discs. If you’ve ever felt the pain of slipped discs you know that there is no appreciation of nature happening when you have back pain and some days literally no getting out of bed until the tramadol and diazepam kicks in because no friggin tumeric is going to shift this inflammation and spasms (but turmeric is great as a daily supplement). Physical asanas were not possible more than the 1st degree of motion. So, I was gifted with this pause and my concentration was no longer on the physical but looking for the energetic lesson in it all and a deeper understanding than the surface. Pain is a great teacher in being present. I really had to learn to be in the moment without the distraction of asana, not saying asana is a distraction for everyone but like a lot of people I got into projection and ambition and was not pausing much in poses and more in the future than the now. I really really had to learn how to actually listen to my body and I really really really had to learn how to move my body in a more natural and aligned way and not make my body fit into postures but fit the postures to my body. Basically walk the walk and find a deeper connection to my body.

Often I hear students saying I’ve got a long way to go or that they feel like they have been doing it wrong. Well is it really about that? Not to me, it’s called yoga practice not yoga perfect for a reason. You are already there on your yoga journey, there is nowhere to go. Just more and more of yourself to discover. I went through it myself thinking I must have got it all wrong to be in this much pain. I remember a particular moment teaching trying to demonstrate a cobra and taking what felt like 5 minutes to get down then only being able to move my neck in what should be an even back bend, fortunately the class had good imagination. Again it’s a path and in my path I had to learn through injury how to be kinder to my body and listen on a deeper level and not try to go somewhere.

Yoga is still so magical to me because even though my practice is not what it was, man do I feel more in poses at much less a depth than before. I truly have learned to appreciate to be in the moment and do what my body can in that very moment and not try to achieve a pose. This is my yoga now and I completely appreciate someone else’s practice is totally different and neither of us are right or wrong about what yoga is we are all on a path. It would be so easy to shift the responsibility off myself and my practice and say my teachers never taught me well or my PT made me lift too heavy but ultimately I made the decisions I made and I attracted the people who helped me along my chosen path.

I cannot remember who said this originally but I remember Jason Crandell saying it and now I really understand it: ‘Don’t practice yoga to get good at yoga, practice yoga to get good at living’.

So often when we are injured, we take that into our practice we either stop because we are demotivated or have been advised to and a story develops, ‘I have a bad back, I’m old, what’s the point in practicing anymore’ STOP there with that story (I’ve done that) you have a body and you can breathe right? Recognise what you are feeling now is the experience now. There will be a class you can go to or there will be something you can do in your own time. Yoga has really helped me to understand my injuries and how they came about and how to heal them. As long as we take the projection out of it and be in the experience of your breath and body we will get the lesson or the increase of energy to the injured area. It may not be fun but we are here to experience polarities.

So my tips if you are injured –

  • Don’t be attached to your injury, you don’t need to tell the teacher at every class you are injured. Let that story go, get on the mat and practice what you can in a mindful and loving way. Beginners of course chat to instructor before class if you need to.
  • Often when we are injured we want to fix it straight away, well do you know why it’s happened? Is your body trying to tell you something? Sit with your injury and just allow your breath to flow there. Injury is telling your body to stop, listen and feel
  • Take time to focus on the parts of your body that are not in pain.
  • Get help!!! Physical help like Osteo, massage, bodywork. Emotional help from talking with your friends, a paid professional, your family.
  • Make a new story, injuries have a great way of making us look at our lives with a new perspective use the time to re-prioritise and maybe get a new routine of self care or a creative hobby in place.
  • REST if you live in London or any big city the pace is fast even when you are a yogi you may slow down for the 60/75 or 90 minutes you practice but then you are back in the race for the showers, train home or getting the dinner ready so take time to rest with your injury.