I must first start this article by saying that 2015 has not been so kind to my body. Currently, I am working through two injuries and the flu. However, I am still able to maintain my daily yoga practice. Yoga with an injury can help to heal or can hinder and hurt. Yoga while sick or hurt should be done wisely. Your body is healing. Awareness of any pain is critical.
Currently I have a healing but tender wrist and lightly pulled hamstring. And, I just recovered from a pinched nerve in my back. Before I give you guidance on practicing while injured, I must first ask you to evaluate how you became injured or sick. Some of my injuries were accidents while others were due to my ego. My streak of bodily injuries is a spat of misfortune and a pinch of preventable. However, my need for speedy progress in my yoga practice must be meditated on. If stress got you sick or your determination to deepen your sport before your body is ready caused your injury, reflect on why your mind pushed you to harm. The time is now to finally listen to what my body needs and wants. You might think your injury is setting you back in your yoga practice but it is more of that the attention is simply diverted from your initial goal.
Rest is important for an injury and while sick but your practice does not have to be strenuous or long. Dealing with an injury or sickness can be a strain on your mind. Moving and functioning normally could be difficult and frustrating. This is the exact reason why you shouldn’t abandon the mat. You need clarity and release for both body and mind. Here are a few tips for maintaining your yoga practice while your body is trying to heal.
1. Modify. Research the best modifications for your injury and your practice level. Be true to modifications in your practice. Since I have a hurt wrist, I avoid all plank position and my forearms have become my best friends. I do gently stretch my wrist but never push it further than it can handle. Your modifications will enhance other parts of your body you neglected. Since I no longer can practice handstands, my forearm stand practice has blossomed. With my pinched nerve, I couldn’t do forward bends. But, my focused turned to hips and I am humbled by the result. Make the best out of your situation and you will be rewarded.
2. Listen to your body. I know I have mentioned this but I truly can’t stress it enough. If you don’t listen, you will hurt and you are missing the point of yoga. Honor your body and it will heal faster. After your injury, you will have a new connection with your body and its constraints.
3. Stop thinking about improving, start thinking about healing. If you have a competitive spirit, divert your attention to a new yoga project, maybe work on internal clarity instead of body flexibility. Because, that’s probably what you need anyway. Progress will happen in surprising places; stop waiting for it to happen and ESPECIALLY stop making time sensitive goals.
4. Do it just for the sake of mental health. Sometimes, savasana is the only moment of meditation and mental relaxation we get in our day. If you stop your physical practice, your mind will still yearn for savasana’s meditative properties. What I’m trying to say is, your mental health is no longer getting the attention it deserves if you abandon your practice because of injury or sickness. Especially if you are sick, your motivation to do yoga might be lacking. However, a gentle yin practice will improve your mood as well as improve your body.
When I first hurt my wrist, I thought my yoga practice was doomed. Two months later, I no longer think that way. Yes, it was a setback but I still have made breakthroughs with an Ashtanga (Primary Series) modified yoga practice. I truly know what my body wanted me to learn: PATIENCE. I have a lot more patience to tolerate as I continue to heal. I am still doing modifications. But, I’m happy where I am with my practice because I’m practicing.
This is a video of some of my modifications and progress.