Archive for the ‘how to deal with yoga injury’ tag
“Every Yogi needs a chiropractor and massage therapist, (just like how) all advanced machines need maintenance.” ~MIKE GRAGLIA
A couple of my students at Upward that are very close to my heart are recovering from some injuries (one minor, one major) and they have expressed their doubts in continuing the physical practice of yoga.
I get injured too sometimes, usually
- when my ego & arrogance win over my intention to heal & to inspire
- when I need to look good in photoshoots while standing on my hands instead of caring for my wrists
- when I have to demonstrate a Chakrasana in Introduction to Ashtanga class while I am not warmed up
- and.. when I practice Ashtanga anyways on Moon Days
Injuries are highly personal and must be addressed with ample rest, sitting still and doing absolutely nothing (which is NOT easy to do if meditation is not part of our yoga practice) as healing can only take place when our brain is not busy executing instructions to move parts of our body.
While there might not be a cookie-cutter yoga pose to heal a particular injury (unless we can pinpoint the very cause or exact reason why an injury happens – which is highly unlikely), I came across a couple of very helpful articles written by my yoga inspiration and my fellow yoga teacher friend and I wish to share them here to assist our path to healing (bruised parts of our body, broken corners of our heart and weakened corners of our mind).
With love, I am dedicating these articles and my practice throughout this week to my recovering students and friends.
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ARTICLE: Let Her Fall: the Road through Pain, to Suffering to Forearm Balance.
Ashtanga Yoga is, first and foremost, a spiritual practice.
It is not an exercise where you judge your success by how hard you work your body, or how perfect the posture is.
You cannot measure a good yoga class by how many adjustments you get, or how much attention the teacher gives you. While it always feels good to receive the guidance of your teacher, either through verbal or physical cues, there is a deeper relationship to the practice that becomes possible only when you let go of the need to “get” something from the teacher or the class.
Some of my best practices have been in the shala in Mysore, when I did not have a single adjustment from my teachers. Instead, the energy of the room and the practice itself provided a forum for me to explore and experience a myself more fully. In some ways all the adjustments and guidance from a teacher are really just there to create a doorway to the realm where we experience the beauty and grace for ourselves directly. If we rely on getting adjustments and attention from our teachers in order to have a good practice, then we will always be focused on an external source for our own development. Eventually, we must take responsibility for our practice and our own journey.
In the beginning it is, however, essential to have a teacher guide you into the postures. And when you really need help, the teacher should ideally be there for you. But some students get too attached to having help in postures where they would benefit from trying several times on their own. For example, I recently heard R. Sharath Jois say to his assistants in Mysore, India, to let certain students work on challenging arm balances or backbends for awhile before going over to help them. His actual words were
“let him suffer”
“let her fall.”
These two experiences tie directly into the discussion of pain and suffering within the context of our yoga practice, and as such they also offer the most potential for growth and development in the student. When you learn a new posture you often need the teacher present to go to places inside of the body and mind that bring up fear and pain. After awhile, you will need to strengthen your nervous system and face these places with your own inner resolution. Sometimes, asking for the teacher to help you every day is a kind of escape that prevents you from experiencing exactly what you would need to experience in order to learn the tough lessons contained within some of the most difficult postures in the Ashtanga Yoga method. In a posture like Pinchamayurasana, you need to learn how to fall freely and safely to get over the fear of it. If you always either go to the wall or ask a teacher to spot you, then you will never develop the kind of self-confidence that it takes to master the posture on your own. You have to learn to…let yourself fall.
When I first learned Pinchamayurasana, I fell over and over. One day I even fell over more than 20 times. I was impatient and determined. Then after 18 months of trying and falling the balance came and stayed. Yes, you read that correctly! It took me a full year and a half of trying every day to learn how to balance in a simple forearm balance. While I was learning, I used the wall once a week and mostly practiced on my own, so I never even had the chance to have someone catch me. When I went to the wall I stayed for 25 breaths to build strength. When I toppled over I picked my body right back up and tried again. My back was always more flexible than I was strong so in order for me to learn how to balance in this posture I had to learn to be strong enough to control my spine. Pinchamayurasana was a lesson in patience (I am not a naturally patient person), perseverance (I wanted to quit nearly everyday) and ultimately a lesson in self-confidence (I had to learn to believe in the idea of my own strength). Every posture has its own time and its own lesson for each person. They key is to be willing to put in the work whenever you face a moment of difficulty, pain or suffering.
You have to let yourself fall. If you do you practice from the perspective of avoiding the uncomfortable feeling of falling then you deprive yourself of full scope of learning possible through yoga. If you can learn how to face pain and suffering without avoiding it then you have understood what the practice is all about. Learning how to fall is about understanding what suffering is, how to face it, accept it and ultimately make it your friend. This is at the core of yoga’s deepest teaching. Yoga is an ancient spiritual tradition, of which the practice of physical postures, known as asanas, are just one component. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras asana is in fact only one out of the full eight limbs of practice. Recent dialogue within the yoga community, most notably in the New York Times article on yoga-related injuries, presents the notion that yoga might be potentially discounted because of the risk of physical injury. Yet this fails to take into account the spiritual journey to the heart of each student’s essential nature that is at center of the yoga practice itself. A true student of yoga is a sincere spiritual seeker and is willing to go through the work of pain, suffering and potential injury if that road ultimately leads to liberation, happiness, healing and freedom.
My teacher Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said that if you experienced an injury during your physical yoga practice the only real way to heal that injury was through more yoga. He also said that if you quit your practice after having experienced that injury that it would stay with you for a long time, perhaps the rest of your life. If pain can be avoided by students learning their lessons the easy way through an open heart, healthy alignment and accepting attitude that is the fastest road. However, when pain and injury arise it is crucial that you do not run from them nor allow their presence to rule your experience of your body, your practice and your life.
There is a mind-body connection that underlies the practice of physical postures. Yoga is more of a body awareness technique than a physical exercise routine. In fact the main purpose of all the postures is to prepare your body and mind for deeper states of realization. When you try to feel and awaken a forgotten area of the body for the first time it is often hard to rouse. Yoga students must use the posture to dig deeper into the layers of the body and reach through memories, emotions, thoughts and anything else to touch the heart of their human soul with all its foibles and vulnerabilities. In the path of yoga it is essential that when pain arises you do not run from it, reacting to the pain from a purely psychological perspective and throw out the whole tradition based on fear. In fact, when you do experience pain it is sometimes a better teacher of the inner work that happens along the path of yoga. Any injuries that arise can be used to learn a deeper lesson about life so that then actually the path of yoga is truly working from a broader perspective.
When you accept yoga as a spiritual path, the notion of ‘the need for safety’ is challenged. You have the confidence to let yourself fall with the full faith that one day you will catch yourself in the air. Think of the yogi as a brave warrior going on a long and epic journey to the center of the soul. Just as in every heroic epic there are fearsome, painful and worrying battles that test the limits of the hero’s ability, so too in yoga are there challenging, difficult and nearly impossible postures that test the limits of your body and mind. But if you are the hero who is committed to the whole journey, then you also have the heart to see the experience all the way through to the end and win your final freedom.
When you look back you will also see that every step—not just easy ones, but perhaps especially the hard ones—along the way were indeed crucial to the successful conclusion of the your life’s greatest epic.
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ARTICLE: Yogi Support System: Massage and chiropractic
by Mike Graglia
Every Yogi needs a chiropractor and a massage therapist. Here’s why…
1. All advanced machines need maintenance.
What we do in Yoga (asana, pranayama, meditation) is use our bodies at a level very different than day to day life. If you are like me you had a couple decades of modern living before you came to the mat. During the process of increasing range, flexibility and strength, there are likely to be some tweaks. Just like real life, if you don’t address these small issues, they will grow into bigger ones. I don’t know about you, but I love learning new poses and pushing my body in new directions, but I then balance that wonderful growth with care and attention from people who can make sure everything (muscles, tendons, vertebrae) are back where they should be.
2. Your sensitivity is going up.
Many people walk around all out of whack. ”Old sports injuries” is something I hear from students often. And they go on to address this pain or that ache with some over the counter pill to numb the pain. This is suboptimal. As Yogis we start to learn that the sensations tell us things and need to listen them. (We also know that pain killers, also kill balance, which is handy in Yoga.) We enjoy more sensations as well become more in tune with our bodies. Like peeling layers off an onion, we become aware of misalignment and tensions in our body. This is a gift. The intelligent intervention of a Chiro and/or massage therapist will help put us on course so those hours on the mat can increase balance instead of reinforcing unhealthy patterns in the body.
Shoulder on left lower than on right…
3. When things go wrong, you want your support team already in place.
One downside to being a Yogi is that you go to an MD/PT/Chiro/Massage therapist after an accident or a spill and say “My X isn’t right, I can’t move it as much.” They have you move around and say “Your range of motion is 2x better than most of my patients, go home take some Advil and come back in a few weeks.” That is when I say “You’re fired.” But who can blame them? They see people whose bodies are tied up in knots, then injured and when an injured Yogi walks in, no big deal. If you already see a therapist/chiro for maintenance, then they know the body, they can define normal–and they can help get you back there. So they know what to look how, how much your body can handle and what needs help.
I’ve had various minor falls and tumbles off the mat and on my bike. I get into my chiro, he looks adjusts and I’m can feel that things are back in order. This is all the more important when things go really wrong. Like when I took a flip off my bike and separated my shoulder. So not good. One of DC’s best orthos told me not to move, take lots of drugs and come back in 6 weeks to see about surgery. Fired.
After homeopathics, meditation and many thoughtful gentle chiropractic adjustments, I was back to normal (handstanding) in a few months.
Take care of this body, you only get one per life.
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My support system are
Eric from Osteocare
Osteocare is at 3F3, Bangsar Village II.
For appointment, call 6016-333 3797.
and Gwyn Williams from ZenThai Shiatsu.
Gywn practices in Sunshine Coast, Australia
but you can catch him at Balispirit Festival every March
During Balispirit Festival 2011, Gwyn gave my husband and I a big pointer when it comes to choosing a massage therapist. He said, “Only allow people that do a lot of internal work (daily meditation/ritual prayers) themselves to work on and touch you as only ‘bodyworkers’ that are in-touch, in-tuned and aligned with their own happenings on the inside, are intuitive and have psychic abilities to tune and realign other people through their touch. Consider yourself lucky if you can get a yoga teacher who has daily meditation practice to massage you.”
Love and healing hugs.