We are constantly changing. In any given moment, our bodies and brains are adapting to our internal and external environments. Every time we come to our mat, we are a little different. Mentally, we are in a different headspace. Physically, our capabilities are different. Some days, our bodies are so open, we’re able to float into poses almost effortlessly. Other days, we are so tight that every pose is a bit of a struggle. And that’s just with everyday micro-changes. Add in an injury or an illness and all of a sudden it’s like we’re dealing with a completely different person. Our favourite poses are no longer accessible and instead of cultivating inner stillness and connection, all we’re feeling is anger and frustration. How do we foster self-acceptance in the face of everyday impermanence? How can we maintain our practice with integrity when dealing with injuries and setbacks?
Focus on the present
Focusing on what you were able to do yesterday or last year is completely irrelevant and only serves to feed your ego. Unless you have a time machine, there is nothing you can do to undo what happened. The sooner you’re able to accept your body as it is, right here and right now, the easier it will be to manage your recovery. Under stress, the body naturally tenses up as a protective mechanism and so trying to force your body into a shape it is not ready for will only delay your progress and is likely what caused the injury in the first place. Make peace with your current capabilities and find the work where you are now.
Change your physical goals into sensation goals
Whether it’s in a mixed-level class or while scrolling through Instagram, we’re often exposed to yogis getting into advanced poses seemingly effortlessly, so it’s only natural that we feel compelled to compete with them. However, focusing on the sensations you experience in a given pose will take you so much farther than forcing yourself into a generic mold of the pose because you saw someone else do it. Yoga isn’t about aesthetic shapes, it’s about the union of your body, mind and soul. From this lens, the way the pose looks is not important. If you’re feeling your muscles open or stabilize you, then you’re exactly where you should be.
Give yourself the time and space to ease yourself into a pose. Rushing negates not only the mindfulness aspect of yoga but also the opportunity to find your sweet spot in a pose. Your sweet spot is about 70% of your full range of motion, where you’re still able to feel a stretch but your supporting muscles have enough strength to support you in that stretch. Too often we move so fast into a pose that we blow right past our sweet spot into a zone dangerously close to hyperextension and run the risk of injury. Instead, take a few pauses during transitions to assess how you’re feeling and how close you are to your sweet spot, then adjust accordingly.
Of course these are more general guidelines to dealing with injuries, and the specific tactics required will vary on a case by case basis. This week on Instagram I will be featuring some common yoga injuries and how to deal with them, so make sure you’re following me @yogaunleished.
Do you have (or have you had) any injuries? How does it impact your yoga practice? Let us know in the comments!