It’s easy to blame the yoga. You go into class. You’re working hard. You’re doing everything the instructor is asking of you to do, to the best of your ability. It’s a normal day in the hot room – sweaty, bright, and challenging. And then…it happens. A pop, a click, and suddenly, you are in pain.
Most people will then claim they were injured in yoga. The yoga did it, not them. Every time something like this happens to me I would love to do that, but I know it’s not true. The yoga is working to balance me out in every way. And when something seems uncomfortable or downright painful I know that it’s not the yoga’s fault. It’s every crazy thing I did before I found the yoga.
When you think about it, we all have some kind of injury. You’ve fallen down at some point or maybe even broken a bone. You used to run cross-country or play football. You used to head to dance or gymnastics directly after school and practice for hours. You know what it’s like to be on crutches, tape up an ankle or wrist, and continue moving with youth’s hard headed abandon through whatever you did to yourself.
You may have been living with some sort of injury or misalignment for years and years to the point where being misaligned feels normal. Then you find yourself in a yoga class and the deeper you go and the more you practice your alignment is suddenly shifting. Your body is coming into balance and everything you have done to your body up to that point comes up for review.
Most days I realize that the students I am privileged enough to teach look at their instructors as if they couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like to practice in their body. Yoga teachers were born back bending and learned how to hand stand by age 2, right? The reality is that most of us know what it’s like to practice in pain or sickness, what it’s like to deal with an injury of some sort, and, yes, we would like to leave the hot room at times too…but we don’t. We’ve practiced long enough to know leaving is not the answer. Leaving doesn’t heal up what’s wrong with you.
Recently I’ve been dealing with what you would consider an injury. I know it’s not the yoga, I know exactly what it’s from and it happened years and years ago. So, I thought I’d explain how I deal with this sort of thing this week in the hopes that it might encourage you to keep going.
Practice as often as you can. When something shifts, going pop or click, and causes some pain I don’t take a break. I make sure to continue to honor my practice. It won’t be pretty and I know I won’t be able to do everything I normally do, but for me, the quickest way to heal it is through the yoga. If your intuition tells you to take a break, listen to that. Take the break. But, if you feel like you might be possibly getting closer to balance and alignment and things are shifting in that direction – keep going. If you caused pain and imbalance in your past, it might, at times, be a somewhat painful journey back to your best balance.
Talk to your teachers. Your teachers are there for you. We may have gone through something similar in the past or have worked with a student that has gone through a similar issue. We might take a closer look at your practice and suggest some ways to alleviate stress in certain areas of the body by making some small adjustments to your postures. A Bikram Yoga teacher is solely watching their students practice and guiding them along the way. We know more about your practice than you might think. Let us help you.
Schedule some extra time to look at you. If you seem to be in chronic pain that you feel is coming from your yoga practice, make an appointment with one of your instructors or schedule a private lesson. Sometimes it pays off to have some one-on-one time to help you achieve your best alignment in each posture and learn more about the yoga you have come to love.
Go slow. If you are working through an injury you may have to take your time getting into Triangle Pose or grabbing your foot for Standing Head to Knee Pose. Who cares? Be in your body. Listen to what it’s telling you and respond to each posture in the series accordingly. You are the one that needs to live in that body, no one else. Only you have the power to heal it. Take your time.
Concentrate on your breath and work solely for your best alignment. Working through an injury can be a gift. It makes you concentrate on your breath and become so incredibly careful with your alignment. These can be the most present and rewarding classes you will ever experience. Being injured does not have to be a bad thing. It can be an opportunity to improve your yoga practice. It can be an opportunity to heal.
Love your body. If you are working through your practice with an injury it is very common to get angry and frustrated with the step backward you feel you are taking. Honor your body. If you are in pain, do not push through it and cause further damage. There is a difference in the pain you will feel when you push too hard and the pain you might feel from stretching or compressing through something. Learn to know the difference. Take a break if you need to. Move with intention every step of the way. Back off when the body says to back off. Send your body loving thoughts. “Thank you. You are amazing. It’s incredible what you can do,” are just some of the thoughts I try and focus on during class when dealing with an injury. Lead with positivity and gratitude and your body will respond. Every cell is listening closely to every thought we think. Think good thoughts.