Moving Through Injury with Yoga
Have you ever experienced something like this? You’re enjoying life and then suddenly— you injure your wrist, shoulder, or lower back—and life becomes more difficult. Without a doubt, it’s going to limit you, and interfere with normal day to day stuff. Now what? If you’ve practiced yoga long enough, you’re bound to come face to face with an injury while on the mat that limits your practice. I’ve been there. I’ve had to deal with broken toes, ankle sprains, wrist injury, and low back / SI joint pain. Injuries suck but I like to use them as learning experiences on the mat. I let my creative side take over to see what I can do to keep moving without making the injury worse. I do this because yoga is more than a workout to me and an injury is just part of my experience right now.
YP Mansfield student Cathy B. recently went through a series of corrective foot surgeries and we asked her if she would share her experience of continuing her yoga practice while injured.
What was your mindset and intention for practicing after your surgeries?
I was thinking—how long will recovery take? What can I do outside of the doctor’s physical therapy, to help with my recovery? Obviously, I knew it was yoga! My first intention was to be still with my body, so it could properly heal before I got moving. I had to let the initial swelling go down. I spent a lot of time thinking and using mental imagery picturing myself moving through poses. I’d think “what’s warrior one or down-dog going to be like?!” The mental part was just as tough as getting on my mat for the first time when I was ready.
How was your first yoga practice when you came back?
When both foot surgeries were complete, and I came to my first practice—it was a challenge for sure. My left foot was probably at 75% and right was far less. I had to modify almost every pose by using the wall for balance, blocks under my hands and going to my knees for side plank, etc. Even the modifications were a challenge but when each session was over my feet felt awesome. Every time I went to the studio to practice, I was able to do more than what I did the session before.
Once back on my mat I knew I was going to have to really focus on every move and every pose so that I don’t re-injure myself. I had to move slower to transition between each posture. I had to focus and know it’s okay to come out! Definitely more mindful during practice.
How has the healing progress been for you since returning to your practice?
My doctor and physical therapist are very pleased with my healing and we all agree that yoga has helped. Yoga helps me heal both physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially!!!
How has this experience changed your practice?
I feel that I’m more focused on every move than I was before. I noticed my breathing is deeper and I’m holding longer with each pose. I’ve learned to forgive myself if I have to come out of a pose or even modify. If I fall out I take a deep breath, then go right back. I’ve learned to celebrate the small successes because each small success leads to a bigger picture.
Cathy, you are an inspiration to us all at YP!
I like to think of my yoga practice as a daily routine, like brushing or flossing teeth. Injuries are a natural and inevitable part of life. You’re going to have pains come and go—especially if you’re active. One of the things I don’t like seeing is when my students stop their yoga practice because they have injured themselves in some way.
Getting on your mat injured will look and feel different—you’ll learn more about your injury and how you can stay balanced overall. At YP we feel that modifying and working around the injury is a way to keep the rest of your body mobile. For example, when I hurt my wrists, I did sun salutations without using my hands or ever going down to the floor until the class stayed down on the floor. My Downward Dog was a Forward Fold and my Upward Dog was a very strong halfway lift. This allowed me to stay in the flow with the class. You’ll learn to work with the injury rather than pushing against it. In a sense—you’ll become more in tune with the injury and possibly clearer of the path to healing it. I’m pretty sure there’s a life lesson in there too.
If you find yourself injured, do let the initial trauma settle down, but then come see us at YP. We would love to work with you and help you develop modifications that keep you in your practice and on the road to healing and feeling better. You’ll learn a lot and who knows, you might be able to help someone else when they get injured.
Namaste and keep moving! We’re about to head out on our West Coast Road Trip in the #txyogavan. We’ll be teaching / practicing yoga, biking, hiking and more! Follow us on Instagram @txyogadave and @txyogastacy
Dave Dockins - 500Hr ERYT / co-owner of the Yoga Project Studios located in Ft. Worth, Mansfield, and Arlington, Texas. Dave and Stacy Dockins lead yoga trainings and retreats in Texas, Thailand, Bali, and Costa Rica. Follow Dave on Instagram @txyogadave