It starts slow, just a little ache, nothing too serious, surely not enough to qualify as an impediment. But then that small ache starts to get a little worse. And a little worse. And a little worse. And then suddenly, or so it seems, that little ache is a full-blown injury.
Growing up as both a soccer player, and runner, I was conditioned to push through pain; to ignore the small aches and sorenesses so that I could perform in games and races. So that I wouldn’t miss a practice or a workout, or a long run. This was fine, for a while. I made it through my high school running career without too many serious issues, but college was another story. With the increased mileage and pressure to perform, I was injured within just a few months.
I would continue to go through a cycle of being healthy and then being injured for the next two years, until I delved deeper into my yoga practice and learned how to listen to my body—how to catch the signals it gave me and prevent serious injury.
Yoga teaches you how to draw inwards, how to pay attention to those aches and pains, and know what they’re telling you. From there you’re left with the choice to acknowledge or ignore them.
A few months ago, I suffered a minor wrist injury: a mild form of wrist tendinitis. I know exactly how I incurred this particular injury and I felt it coming for a while before I really chose to do anything about it (a bad habit that I’m still working on). However, the improvement here for me is that I’m not totally broken; sure, I’m wearing a brace to reduce the amount of stress on my wrist, but I don’t have a stress fracture, and I still have a functional hand. This may not seem like a success to most, but as a runner, I would quite literally run myself into the ground, to the point of physically being unable to walk without pain, much less run, before admitting that something was wrong. Through yoga, I have learned that the small nudges my body gives me are significant signs that I need to tone it down a notch (or five).
As an athlete, I grew to adapt the mindset that pain was inconsequential, and through yoga I have begun to re-wire this in my brain so that I may prevent serious injury.
But nobody’s perfect. I certainly am not. And once in awhile, everyone gets an injury. So how can we recover from these ailments mindfully?
Rest is the most important step you can take when injured because it allows the body to heal and recover. Though it can be frustrating to take time off, it will not slow your progress. In fact, you are much more likely to recover more quickly by resting early on, rather than pushing yourself until your breaking point.
- Listen to your body
You body will give you cues in the form of pain and discomfort. If something hurts, don’t do it. Let these cues establish your limits, and then stick to them. Avoid activities that aggravate the injured area.
- Focus on what you can control & be routine and dedicated to your treatment
Ultimately, you can control how fast your muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments repair themselves. You can do a lot to aid in their recovery, though, and this should be your focus. Whether it’s stretching, icing, heating, or just taking time off, be dedicated to the things you can control.
- Look at the bright side
There is always a silver lining. What positives are coming from the time you’re taking off? Is it giving you more time for another hobby that you love? Or maybe causing you to focus on other aspects of your life that you want to improve? Find the positive aspects in your situation and focus on those, rather than letting your brain fill with pessimism and negativity.
- Use “off-time” productively
In the time you’re taking off because of your injury, find things that you can do to be productive in other ways. Maybe organize your desk, or get caught up on work you’re behind in. Finding a productive use of your time will just you satisfaction and help dull the frustration of being injured.
“Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.” Know that set-backs don’t last forever. You will recover and be back to your old self, but the process takes patience. Be content with where you are and the things that you can do in the present moment to better yourself.
- Visualize your recovery
The brain is powerful, and visualization techniques can prove to be very effective in improving your mood and outlook on life. Visualize your recovery. See yourself healing and getting better, rather than ruminating on the fact that you are injured. By maintaining a positive outlook, you’ll be more motivated to take the necessary steps you need to recover.
Once I realized that there was probably something going on with my wrist, I stopped practicing wrist-intensive asanas, and began avoiding workouts that involved placing weight in my wrists. I ordered both a brace and compression sleeve off Amazon, and started icing the affected region after teaching my morning yoga classes.
Initially, I was frustrated with this injury, because it meant no more arm balance practice, and it made it difficult to demonstrate poses to my clients. But I found that through this injury, my cueing has necessarily improved. Furthermore, I’ve been using the time I spent practicing arm balances to infuse more folding and opening poses into my practice, as well as to work on my pincha (forearm stand). I have also been adding more restorative sequencing into my personal practice, which is translating into more energy off of my mat.
By finding and focusing on the silver lining of the whole tendinitis situation, I experience much less frustration, and a lot more satisfaction with the practice that I am able to accomplish. Moreover, the milestones I am reaching in the other areas of my practice are significant, which is exciting and definitely worth the “time-out” from arm balances.
Injuries suck, but they are generally temporary. Just think of it as a nudge towards a different direction from the universe, and always find the silver lining.
With love and light,