Yoga for injuries
YOU ARE NOT YOUR INJURY
Have you ever been in intense physical pain and then to add insult to injury, you get emotionally devastating news?
The doctor came in and said I may need surgery. The TX either way is 4 weeks in a sling, 2 additional weeks non weight-bearing, returning to sports after 8 weeks and a MD clearance, if it heals correctly.
I had a fracture at the distal end of the clavicle and AC separation.
That sort of news never comes across as joyous. Especially for an aspiring yoga student. It bottomed out any self confidence that I had.
When you are given some really crap news, do you let it stop you? Or do you rise up agains it?
The day after my ED visit I went to the studio to do my Mysore practice. I was scared, depressed, angry, frustrated, sad, and humiliated.
In the 8 weeks of immobilization, I learned how to use chopsticks with my other hand, and brush my teeth. I figured out how to open bottles, and ride a bike one-handed. (Brushing my teeth was and still is the most awkward thing to do with your less dominant hand.) All of it required adjusting and modifying my 'normal' habits.
So, I modified my ashtanga practice.
There wasn’t a set plan. My teacher held the space to allow me to play with different variations until I found one that worked.
The first time I went into the mysore room after the injury, I was afraid, scared, sad, and confused. I didn’t know what I was going to do. If my teacher was afraid, she didn’t show it. She came up to me and told me to do what I could do.
I unrolled my mat and stood at the top. I closed my eyes and surrendered.
Ekam - Inhale, arm up
Dve - Exhale, lower
Trini - Inhale, head lifts
Catvari - ( I can’t lower down, I can’t jump back, I can’t . . .)
My head was filled with I can’t. And that would have stopped me. But I wanted to figure it out. I was determined not to let an injury take this practice away.
If this practice is for anyone and everyone, then the injured can do this practice too!
How many time in life do we let the ‘I can’t’ be the driving force behind our actions?
We can’t because of uncertainty, because we are afraid of what others think about us. Injuries called all of this to light for me. I was scared and confused and had zero confidence.
I know that there are many times in my life that my lack of confidence has prevented me from stepping out and stepping up. I think, someone else can do it better, I’m not qualified, I don’t have a degree or certification.
The thing that tripped me up in this case, was thinking that I had to do everything like I was doing before or make it look like everyone else. Except, I couldn’t look like everyone else because my arm was in a sling. It was obvious that I wasn’t like ‘everyone else.’
Ligaments/Tendons depending on the severity of injury take a few weeks to heal. For a mild strain, you may be able to return to normal activities within three to six weeks. For more severe strains, recovery can take several months. In severe cases, surgical repair and physical therapy may be necessary *
Bones take about 6-12 weeks to heal to a significant degree. Immobilization is a critical part of treatment because any movement of bone fragments slows down the initial healing process. In this case my arm was in a sling. A sling doesn’t completely immobilize the bone but it does remind the patient that there is an injury and to be aware of it. Nothing crazy.
Was going to Mysore practice crazy? I didn’t think so.
There isn’t a defined way to modify the Ashtanga practice for injuries. Each injury is unique to the individual and what they can tolerate. I made up a practice. Working with a qualified instructor, a teacher who knows the practice inside and out is essential. Working with a teacher who is also aware of body mechanics, and healing increases your chance for a sustainable practice.
Catvari - Exhale brace non-injured arm on shin. Pull scapula in-down-and-back. Staying in a forward fold.
Pancha - Inhale lift the chest, coming up 1/2 way.
Sat - Exhale. With a flat spine, shoulder rotated down and back I stayed for 5 breaths.
She supported my leg in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. I stopped practice after Janushirasana C taking Navasana instead of jumping through between sides, and rested my legs up a wall for closing.
I continued exploring what was possible. Prasarita Padottanasana C, not possible. Skip. Parsvakonasana B, not possible. Skip. I became less attached to what the asana looked like and focused more on the breath.
Sapta - Inhale lifting the head (no change of position)
I didn’t try to push it. Showing up was already pushing it.
But after weeks 4-6 when the sling was removed, I was still cautioned against placing any weight on the arm. Without the sling I started to feel inadequate. I felt like other students were watching me and they didn’t know that I had a broken clavicle. I was still modifying my Surya Namaskara’s and not jumping through. I wanted to wear a sign that hung around my neck, BROKEN. I wanted to let everyone know.
Astau - Exhale, lower down
Do you ever feel that if other people knew how many difficulties you are dealing with or struggles that you have overcome they would be nicer to you? If they knew what was troubling you they would give you space? If they only knew?!?
But it was all in my head. No one was looking, everyone was absorbed doing their thing. Doing their practice.
That was the hardest part in the healing process. The mental healing. If *they* only knew? Who is this *they* and am I included in this they? What if there were others in this room that were healing?
And then a light went off! I wasn’t the only one with an injury, everyone who showed up in that room was healing something. Something physical, something emotional, something spiritual, something universal.
Nava - Inhale, up. Raising one arm above the head
Limits are constantly being redefined.
The teacher is charged with holding space for each of these injuries. Holding space for the healing. All too often we are lost in our own head only seeing our injury or our side of the story. The teacher is aware of their own healing and the healing of each of the students.
The more I practiced, the more I wanted to go back to practice. I had a feeling after practice that, I can. And I did. #noexcuse
RX: work with a qualified and seasoned teacher who knows your practice.
The steps to healing with confidence after injury:
-Feel scared. Understand it. Embrace it. This feeling is common and is from a place of self-preservation. There is nothing wrong with this very normal feeling. Growing will come from understanding it and understanding that you want to be present in the future.
-Show up. After understanding that you want to be present in your future. Step into your future. People are rooting for you. Your teachers want the best for you. They typically don’t do the job for the money, their happiness comes from your transformation and your success. Trust them. Trust that the injury hasn’t killed you and that the healing WILL NOT kill you.
-Experiment. Make a checklist of what works and what doesn’t. What is possible? What isn’t? Take an inventory of your stock. What do you have? Explore your body. Injuries are limitations, not restrictions. Restrictions are borders and boundaries locked in place by your mind, or by legal action. Limits are constantly being redefined. In yoga practice we are constantly redefining our limits, pushing past, holding back from, and striving towards. You may need to make long-term changes in how you do things in the practice.** Keep the breath steady.
-WAIT. When you feel healed, hold yourself back 1wk minimum. You know how you don’t recognize and pay attention to the fact that you are wearing a shirt after about 10 minutes? It’s only until you take it off that your body remembers that you were wearing a shirt. Injuries are the same. Your body builds a tolerance to them and a natural numbness or decreased awareness to it occurs. Returning to FULL POWER too soon, when you think you feel healed, that is the time when most re-injuries occur. To prevent this, wait. No hurry, you.