Practicing Yoga When You Have an Injury

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness

That most frightens us.

(From “Our Deepest Fear”, by Marianne Williamson)

There was a time when I practiced yoga simply because it was fun. I was young, flexible, fairly strong, and could enjoy doing most poses without WORRYING because I wasn’t at a great risk for injury.

Until I got injured.

After injuring my hamstring, yoga was no longer fun. Every movement of my body was a cause for hesitation--for pause. And I was quite young at the time, so having an injury that prevented me from back bending, moving and stretching at the intense pace I was used to was, quite frankly, annoying.  

I probably could have blindly continued to practice (and teach) without slowing down or learning to modify, or neglecting to strengthen key muscle groups and breathing. Most likely, my body would have yelled and screamed and eventually shut down from the repeated discomfort that it would have gone through.

In order to access the joy that I wished for, I had to change my approach to my practice. I decided to slow down, to start noticing how my body could support me differently, in order to find the freedom that I longed for.

 

You see, when I first began yoga, it was mostly for the fitness. It took me awhile to realize that yoga was actually providing me with the mental and emotional space I needed to feel energized and calm. Once I realized this, I began to understand that yoga is MORE than the physical postures and movement--it is about connecting to a deep-seated inner desire to feel radiant, healthy and whole. 

The realization that my Authentic Self didn't need to be able to do a handstand was huge. I wanted to continue practicing yoga because I wanted to continue feeling good inside.

 

So I started looking at this: what did I really want for myself? How had yoga already shaped me, beyond having a healthy or an injured body?

Quite possibly the greatest discovery of my life was that yoga is a space where All of me, including my injuries, my heartaches, my pain, can exist.

 

Now that I was practicing in order to better understand and heal my pain--I discovered a deeper pleasure. The practice of yoga allowed me to slow down, tend to my body's needs while at the same time listening in to my own truths and desires.

Yoga became an artful dance of careful, attentive technique and deep listening to my body.

 

It is this dance of skill and technique combined with the magic of listening to your own truth that makes yoga such an empowering practice. 

If you are a student who is new to yoga, just beginning, or wishing to come back to your practice again because of healing or injury, know that the magic of yoga lies in your own ATTITUDE and approach, not in any tricky poses or fancy moves. Find a yoga teacher who emphasizes this.

 

Essential tools of the yoga practice that do not involve athletic capabilities include pranayama or breathwork, and meditation practices. Look for classes where the instructor teaches these skills. Therapeutic yoga, Yoga Nidra, Yin yoga, Kundalini, and others include these practices that will provide you benefits that are beyond words. If you want to take class with me, check out my schedule here.

Now take 2 or 3 minutes to try the following Breathwork Meditation:

 

With your eyes closed, sit on the edge of your seat, spine lifted, feet flat on the floor.

Take 3 deep breaths. Continue to breath, and allow your breath to slow down, long slow inhales, long slow exhales.

After a few minutes of slow deep breathing, what can you feel? Can you feel your breath, on the tips of your nostrils? Do you feel anxiety? Maybe you feel tired, maybe you’re bored, maybe you’re angry today….what is it that you feel? Itchy? Hungry? Sad? Satisfied? Depressed?

Are there even words to describe what it is that you’re noticing? Take a few moments to sit with this. Then, open your eyes.

Now, say out loud to yourself what it is/was that you noticed. Is it surprising? Are you thinking to yourself, duh, of course I felt that, I feel that every day? Have you stopped reading because it seems like this is going nowhere….or, perhaps you sense that it makes you uncomfortable?

Close your eyes again, take 3 deep breaths, and ask yourself, What is it that you deeply want?

Do you think that you are capable of having it? Do you feel comfortable allowing yourself to want this? Do you feel this deep longing is attainable or unattainable?

 

 

Sometimes this practice can feel scary, difficult, or weird. Why is this? As Marianne Williamson remarks, looking inside reveals your "light": your power, your strengths, your deepest DESIRES. Maintaining the belief that your own desires are unattainable keeps them in darkness and denial.

When we are willing to look at the injury, the pain, or the loss, in its face, for what it is, sometimes we learn that we have to CHANGE. And this is what is uncomfortable. But ultimately, we grow as human beings when we change.

Yoga and mindfulness practices teach tools for accessing our innate strength, power, and intuition. These tools work because when you are willing to look at and see what it is that you really, truly want, with all of your heart, you are saying a radical YES to growth and change.

Make space to receive, possess, and OWN your wishes, longings, and desires: it will be one of the most powerful tools you will ever use.

 

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