Hands up – who started looking into yoga because they were trying to fix an injury? I’ve raised mine too! And recently I’ve had a larger than normal proportion of people coming to me asking about niggles, pains, limitations etc and so I thought I’d round up a few thoughts on how to work with an injury here. Please note – this is neither specific, personalised nor medical advice, listen to your physio team, and if you’re injured and new to yoga talk to a teacher first before jumping in to follow a video on YouTube.
Injuries are horrible. And not only is the physical side of them frustrating, limiting and painful, but the emotional ramifications of getting hurt are often more powerful than we give them credit for. I came to yoga because I hurt myself surfing; not super seriously, but badly enough that I’ve been left with mild sciatica I rely on my practice to keep in check. And it was actually when I did my first headstand (supported, terrified) and came down and realised my head hadn’t fallen off that I started to appreciate how protective of myself I’d become. My fledgling yoga practice had helped iron out the discomfort in my neck, yes, but more than that, it pushed me just far enough that I stopped walking around feeling as though I was going to break.
Yoga can be super healing – it can keep the body mobile without high impact, it can release muscular tension, build strength and balance, and improve proprioception which can reduce the risk of further injuries. But used in the wrong way it can also make things worse. So how should you practice if you’re hurt?
First of all, rather than seeing an injury as purely a negative, can it be an opportunity to learn a little bit more about your body? If it’s a long-term thing caused by imbalance, can you use your yoga practice to build strength in those weaker areas? Maybe thinking about going back to basics – revisiting the first poses you learnt, looking at them with fresh eyes, focusing on alignment, posture, core strength, finding ease in the breath. You could even start to think really creatively about your practice and how you modify it to suit your specific requirements – can you be open minded and original in your use of props to support the weaker areas? Maybe propping yourself up – or one side of yourself up – with blocks, or bolsters, or using a strap to keep the arms in alignment while they rebuild strength?
An injury can also be a great opportunity to explore forms of yoga you may not have considered before. Iyengar can be amazing for teaching alignment and posture, restorative can be the best way to soothe the body, reducing stress and therefore inflammation and so speeding up healing. And yin can work wonders if moving at all feels like it’s too much!
If you’re working with an injury, though, please do be mindful. Talk to a teacher about your specific circumstances, never work into pain, and be honest with yourself if something feels as though it isn’t working. You can come out the other side with a deeper understanding of your own body and what works for it, with greater strength and mobility and a practice that’s less about your ego and more about a true connection with your body – with just a little bit of creative thinking. Go forth and yoga!
Any questions please do get in touch; and if you’re working with something whether it’s big or small I’d love to hear how you’re getting on.