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How to Heal and Return to the Mat Smarter and Stronger After An Injury

Healing | Health

"Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us."-David Richo

You practice nearly everyday and can twist, invert and backbend without breaking a sweat. But alas, even your seemingly invincible body has vulnerabilities and now an unexpected injury requires you to slow down, modify your routine or take time off from your physical practice to recover.

Annoyance, exasperation and even anger can occur when you have a willing and eager spirit but a body that just cannot keep up. Don't let your injury bring you down! Take a well-deserved rest to heal and transform this experience of agony into one of victory.

Below I have outlined the most common types of yoga-related injuries and the lessons they can teach during the healing process that will help you maintain and strengthen your practice, and allow you to do yoga after an injury – even when you cannot physically make it to the mat.

Acute or Sudden Trauma – “BAZINGA! GOT YA’!”

The Lesson: Choose Practice Over Perfection

We’ve all got limits! Do you know the difference between stretching within yours versus pushing beyond them? A sudden trauma will certainly let you know.

All too often we party too hard on AND off the mat, or we receive an unwelcome adjustment from a well-intentioned instructor. Be willing to speak up if something doesn’t feel quite right while receiving an adjustment, and also have some self-compassion when you have the desire to pull, force or contort yourself into unfamiliar postures.

The pain response in the body warns you when you approach a vulnerable area, and if you keep ignoring the pain in order to “get further ahead,” injury will throw you an unexpected surprise party and send you home early.

Embrace, rather than resist, your limits and begin the real practice…ahimsa.

Connective Tissue Tears – “What Ya Got POPPIN’?”

The Lesson: Forgive but Never Forget

SPRAIN: Ligaments stabilize joints and connect bone to bone, providing a strong support system. If a ligament ruptures, a “popping” sound may occur when a joint takes on too heavy of a load such as the knees in utkatasana or the elbows and wrists in arm balances.

STRAIN: Tendons attach muscle to bone. Overstretching beyond your healthy and pain-free range of motion will tear muscle fibers.And if you keep on going, you will also tear the tendon, which takes a longer time to heal. People often refer to a strain as a pulled muscle.

After you return to your mat following a sprain or a strain, you may be surprised to notice that you still have remnants of the injury. That is because connective tissue doesn’t have a blood supply the way muscles do, and they take longer to heal.

These thick and fibrous tissues also lack the same elasticity of muscle fibers, so once overstretched, they will also feel slightly more vulnerable to future recurrences.

In these instances, remember to focus on stability instead of stretching to stay out of those extra flexy danger zones.

Repetitive Stress Injuries – “This Old Thing!”

The Lesson: Time for a Change!

Tendonitis, Bursitis and Stress Fractures are all forms of repetitive stress injuries that occur from doing the same movement again and again.

Dedicated yoga practitioners especially, benefit from adding variety or “cross-training” into their weekly regimen. We often resonate with one particular style of yoga and even defend why it “reigns superior” over other styles.

However, the more one feels at home with a particular style, the more they need to change it up and utilize opposing muscle groups while resting the overused areas and/or shift the frequency and intensity at least once a week.

Not only will the change do a body good, but you will also keep your mind fresh and open to new ideas—minimizing your chances of getting bored and allowing your practice to stay more regular.

Practice Yoga in the NOW and Live in The Moment

Injury and illness, our least favorite teachers, often give us no other alternative than to sit still with ourselves and observe the healing process in action.

Anybody who has recovered from ANY injury knows that these lessons will remain long after the body has repaired itself. If you suffer from an injury right now or anytime in your future, remember this inevitable truth:

No matter how much your pain dominates your life in this moment, change will happen, and you will heal.~Judy Rukat

When you return to your mat, you will practice differently—with less fear and more surrender because injury always brings us back to a beginner’s mind and reminds us to celebrate the joy that comes from taking a slow deep breath and connecting it to the flowing ease of simple movement.

Yoga right NOW means that you can practice for the sake of the practice without sacrificing awareness for ambition.

You can release past expectations (i.e all the poses you USED to do) as well as future hopes ( i.e all the poses you WANT to do) and make yourself fully present to this moment of SATYA (TRUTH). Let it go to let it FLOW.

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