Friday, November 12, 2010

Yoga and Injury

I'm going to dive in and write just a little bit about something that stirs up a lot of chatter from time to and injury.

It's on my mind because, of course, I've managed to injury something...sprained my thumb actually. Apparently there is not really a good way to fall out of Mayurasana. I went too far forward, panicked as I realized a face plant was imminent and when into some weird roll to the side...unfortunately with my arms pinned underneath me...ouch!
As injuries go, it's not really too bad. Most of the swelling went down in a couple days and I'm able to practice on it. Palms to the floor is no problem; I just can't reach the thumb around to bind anything at the moment.

The whole process of working through injury and all the muttering that surrounds the topic is so interesting to me! I'm always puzzled with the view, often from those who don't actually practice yoga of any style, that when an injury happens, someone was doing "bad yoga". Often it's the pose itself that gets the blame; chakrasana gets mentioned in this context as does chaturanga. (Check out a great article on chaturanga, injury and the shoulder joint by David Keil.)

First of all, it just seems unfair to have this expectation of perfection from anything physical. If I twisted an ankle playing basketball with friends or stumbled over something in the street while going running, no one would bat an eye! Secondly, If my attention to the present moment were so steady that it never wandered and I was always perfectly aware, then I wouldn't need asana practice...I'd already be enlightened!!

Right then, now have the ranting out of my system...on to some thoughts on the process of working through injury...

Over the course of about 9 years of regular practice, I have tweaked things from time to time. Thankfully, it hasn't happened often and only in 2 cases has it taken more than a couple weeks to heal. Every time though, I've gone through a similar mental process during practice while modifying to accommodate the injury. Injury always seems to prompt a super steady focus in my practice. The thought of having to give up practice completely or that I might make the injury worse seems to draw in all my attention to every breath and movement. I follow each movement so carefully, scanning the body to see how the injury is responding to every shift.

It always gives me a lot to think about as far as attention during practice and what practice really consists of. It's always just a little bit humbling to back up (so to speak) and modify poses that I'm used to doing full expression of. This is a good thing! It reminds me practice is whatever I can do with my best effort at paying attention. If this is really to be a lifetime practice, then there will likely come some day when I will have to let full expression of some pose go. Better to start practicing that now from time to time.

As Ashtangis we have 3 places provided to place the attention: breath, bandha and driste. When my body points out very clearly that I wasn't paying attention, it's a reminder to refocus my attention on the fundamentals.

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