Kino MacGregor, Ashtanga’s social media sweetheart, writes about healing injuries with yoga here. Here’s 3 quotes from the article to help you take the edge off that frustration.
- “It is not the physicality of hatha yoga that transforms, but the state of presence cultivated by a conscious effort to heal the body and train the mind that heals.”
This wonderful quote touches on a theme that I will keep revisiting – why do postures? Surely, if for building muscle or cardiovascular strength, hitting it hard with a personal trainer or training in a sport would do the job.
It is the physical experience of finding yourself in a strange, uncomfortable situation and not freaking out. It is about being in a difficult position, and still continuing to breathe – maybe even smiling to unclench the jaw. When you surrender to the fact that you’ll be here for at least 5 breaths, you find you’re able to find comfort in discomfort.
And we’re creatures of habit, it’s all too easy to fall into complacency with practice. The postures that used to challenge you have now become comforting, easy. That’s where an injury can shake up your whole world. The pose that you worked so hard to master, that you were finally able to breathe comfortably and relax in, taken away from you.
Back to square one? Well, no – more like level up! Modifying the pose to accommodate injury means a whole new experience to not freak out about, to learn to be okay with.
- “When yoga says that pain is your teacher it does not ask you to plow through blindly. Instead pain is your motivation to make the changes in your technical approach to movement in order to be healthier and ultimately free from the kind of pain that will injure you.”
We all have this common tendency to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Avoidance of the pain of your injury can occur in one of two ways –
i) You pack in your yoga practice. You gave it your best shot, bad things happened, ouch, it’s not for you.
ii) You resist and insist (ego again!). I’m fine, says Ego. Push past it. No pain, no gain. Only the strong survive, etc. etc.
Pain is your teacher, in that it asks you to sit up and pay attention. So you need not go to either of the two extremes above.
Simply enquire into your experience, with kindness, curiosity and truthfulness. What caused the injury? It may be rushing into a posture with the muscles not warmed up. Or damaging alignment due to postural habits, or a lack of understanding or awareness of your own very personal anatomical structure (hypermobile-joint folks, I’m looking at you).
Like continuing to argue with a small child while tempers are flaring, grinding on an injury by plowing through the pain is completely pointless. Let the aggravation rest, and come back to it with a clear, calm head.
- “This ample serving of humble pie will be just what you need to be free from that little whiny voice in your head that thinks your value is tied to your achievements.”
There’s the physical pain of that pulled hamstring. Then there’s the bruised ego that gnaws at you because you haven’t quite managed to cram your face between your shins in forward fold.
You came to yoga – I guess – because you wanted to be free of stress, to release tension, to leave the pressures of the “real” world behind. So what happened? We’re trying to release tension, not create more. Why are you inviting that all that stress and strife back on the mat?
Yes, it is hard to shake the “real-world” mindset, it’s hard to just check the ego at the door, as some yoga teachers will tell you to do. Everywhere else in this hectic world, you’re told to do more, get more, be fabulous. But let your yoga practice be the one sacred space where you consciously give yourself a break.
You deserve it.