Injured? Here’s Why You Can Still Practice Yoga
Yoga: No pain, No Gain
That’s how the saying goes.
Yet as yogis we know that a consistent yoga practice is intended to take us out of suffering, not cause it.
We are encouraged in class to challenge ourselves, deepen the pose, and accept the latest Instagram challenge.
On the other hand, we’re reminded to practice compassionately, listen to our bodies, and modify when necessary.
Navigating the two extremes can result in injury, particularly for type-A yogis (like, for example… me).
In fact, most experienced practitioners have had to deal with their fair share of injury over the years.
Sometimes we hurt ourselves on the mat; sometimes we have to learn how to practice with an injury that has occurred outside of yoga.
So what’s an injured yogi to do, anyway?
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Sthira Sukham Asanam ~ Sutra 2.46
In the yoga sutras, Patanjali defined asana as a steady, comfortable posture.
He said nothing about pain and gain.
We can practice keeping Patanjali in mind, not only to practice with injury but also to prevent it.
By directing our attention to finding a balance between sthira (steadiness) and sukha (ease), we hold the space between effort and effortlessness.
For many of us, this may mean falling out of ego and leaning into what simply is- now, for today.
This is where the yoga happens.
It isn’t easy, but resting in the way things are can only result in a sense of peacefulness and acceptance.
It’s counter-intuitive, but that’s exactly when things begin to heal.
Enter each pose slowly and with care.
Listen to your body’s signals and do what you can do with good alignment.
Practice 20 percent of the full expression of each posture with 100 percent mindfulness, and there’s the yoga.
And just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
Remember the 8 Limbs
If your injury means asana practice must be greatly minimized or temporarily eliminated altogether, this is a great time to explore the other limbs of yoga as outlined by Patanjali.
Try meditating, and take it slowly at the start.
Five minutes of sitting in silence will change your entire day.
Chant a mantra that resonates with you, or sing along to a pre-recorded one.
Take this opportunity to practice pranayama, or breath control.
Ujjayi pranayama, or victorious breath, is performed by inhaling and exhaling through the nose while softly constricting the throat muscles.
It’s a good place to begin practicing pranayama.
Find a sacred space in your home to do these practices.
Make a small altar and place objects that have meaning for you there.
Be with yourself.
Yoga is there, too.
This is also a good time to explore yogic literature.
You can read the sutras cover to cover, but you don’t have to.
Select from a vast selection of yoga-related writing from every genre including but not limited to memoirs, philosophy, textbook, and even cookbooks.
Learn something new.
The body and mind are connected (but you knew that!).
Injuries can be challenging to deal with.
But they can be powerful experiences too.
While they might constrict space on the yoga mat in terms of what we can do physically, they can also lead us to exploring other facets of our yoga practice that might otherwise have not received our attention.
Yoga is about so much more than a mat and the shapes we make with our bodies on it.
Remember, the word yoga comes from a Sanskrit word meaning yoke or union.
It’s not called yoga for nothin’!
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