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Practicing through Injuries

“Practicing yoga is risky. You need to accept the risk of potential injury.” This should be added as disclaimer to anyone who is thinking about getting serious with yoga practice.

Joking aside, just like any other form of exercise, yoga can cause injury through misalignment, overuse, overstretch, or even weird movements that your body is not used to. Throughout my 5+ years of practicing yoga, I have had injures or strains on nearly every part of my body. I have hurt my shoulders trying to practice pincha mayurasana or forearm stand in the middle of the room full of 30+ people during my very expensive teacher training. I have also just recovered from a very lengthy back pain from trying to go too deep into backbend when I just started ashtanga practice, which require some drop backs to wheel pose. Now, I am in the middle of a new form of injury – a pain in my posterior shoulder / upper back. This one is very annoying because I could barely do a push up, and if you are familiar with yoga, you would know that chaturanga / half push up is a very common part of all styles of practice.

Fortunately (or not), I still can continue my handstand practice, and, to my surprise, there have been some progress even! For example, I managed to do some handstand transitions, which require a long and stable hold.

I managed to get more stable access to scorpion handstand (handstand with back bend).

Also, I started to feel a little more mobile and flexible in getting into a heels-over-head pose.

I have made a lot of adjustments to my practice however. For example, instead of going into a full chaturanga dandasana, I went for half (knees down) or even skipped entirely to upward-facing dog. I even skipped all the jump-backs during my personal ashtanga practice as it put a lot of pressure on my back / shoulders. This is what I could do in order to still be able to have my exercise while not causing more injury. I am also quite proud of myself when Kru Beau, my ashtanga teacher, told me that I’m approaching this correctly.

The reason that I’m writing this now is, of course, apart from trying to practicing my handwriting (I started writing this on paper), to provide myself with a few notes:

  • Injury is not a reason to stop practicing completely, but rather scaling back on parts of practice that may worsen the pain

  • Injury may also offer an opportunity to deepen the practice on other parts of the body that may have been neglected. Often times, strains, inflammations, and soreness are caused by over-pushing or too much attention to that particular part of the body

  • You may re-emerge stronger or more flexible. Prime example: I heard a snap in my hamstring once during my hanumanasana practice, and it hurt for a while. However, in the process, my split was also deeper. There is rainbow after a cloudy sky.

  • There is no shame in scaling back your practice. Strong soldiers have battle scars. Although this is not frequently discussed, most of strong practitioners that I know have had their bouts of injured period.

Even with all that said, there is no denying that being injured sucks... big time. However, there is still some comfort in knowing some ways to live with and some potential light, even brighter maybe, at the end of the tunnel.

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